Educate Together to meet the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science – 24th June 2003

Educate Together has been invited to address the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Science at 11:30am, July 3rd 2003 at Leinster House.

Educate Together will address two central issues of importance for the Irish educational system.

  1. The necessity for the state to plan for educational needs of a rapidly diversifying and growing society.
  2. The need for pro-active planning and support for new schools.

Educate Together will present an opinion that the state is building up for itself a legal and human rights liability in continuing to re-enforce an overwhelming monopoly of privately owned denominational schools at a time of great social change.

Currently 99% of all primary schools available to families in Ireland are legally bound to uphold a specific religious ethos. At the same time, the Constitution of Ireland specifically prohibits the state from compelling families to send their children to schools against their conscience and lawful preference. Unless the state recognises this liability and takes action to plan for structural change it could be violating the rights of these families and their children.

Educate Together will propose that the most appropriate response is to create a national network of schools that operate under a legal charter that guarantees the identity of all children is respected and cherished, irrespective of of their social, cultural or religious backgrounds. Such a network will ensure the rights of the growing number of families whose ethical needs are not met by the current system. This network should be in schools owned by the state, developed in the context of the National Development Plan and protected by ring-fenced funding. Such a development will also ensure the future vitality of the denominational option. Educate Together will address the appalling difficulties experienced by voluntary groups of parents who have been attempting to address the need for such schools in the past 25 years. Obstacles faced by such groups have significantly increased in the past three years. Currently, even in areas where all parties agree there is a need for a new school, the state has no mechanism whereby the school can be created.

Planned new schools do not appear on the published building list and there is no specified budget line assigned. This will be highlighted with reference to the crisis situations in Lucan, Donabate, Navan and Swords. The presentation will also emphasise the failure of forward planning in such areas, the need for legislative changes in the planning process and the waste of public funds involved in the current system.

Educate Together will argue for a complete rethink of the Department’s procedures for new schools and a new package of supports in the first years of their operation.

The meeting will be televised live within Leinster House and made available to broadcasting organisations.