Educate Together is hopeful that the initial volume of responses to the parental survey on school choice shows that parents are engaging with the issue. The Department of Education has released figures showing response rates to the survey of up to 45% of parents with primary school children in certain areas.
The survey has been piloted in five areas initially. While response levels varied across the areas, all showed a significant level of parental interest.
Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together commenting on the figures said:
We are pleased that the figures released by the Department show that parents are responding to the survey. Given this is the first group of areas being surveyed, and the fact that parents had to actually go online to complete it, reports of returns of up to 40% are both encouraging and statistically significant. However there is a big challenge ahead for the Department to raise awareness with parents across the country as the survey is rolled out into the next 39 areas.
The parental survey is the first of a series of actions recommended by the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism to address the current imbalance of available school types in primary education. The results of the parental surveys will assist the Department of Education and Skills in their discussions with the Catholic Church on possible school patronage re-assignments.
Said Paul Rowe again:
The survey is a tremendous opportunity for communities throughout Ireland to have their say on the types of schools they want in their area. The survey results will provide valuable information for education planners in the provision of schools. But we have to remember that the survey is not a plebiscite. Its purpose is not to comment on current provision but to establish what demand for further or other provision there might be in many areas, he added.
Mr Rowe continued:
If the survey results show sufficient numbers calling for a viable and additional alternative school in an area, this will give all partners in education a good place to start, based on accurate and current statistical information. Paul concluded by saying: Educate Together looks forward to the publication of the full survey results and to working with the Department of Education & Skills and all stakeholders in the further development of an education system that is fully reflective of the needs and wishes of a diverse and modern Ireland.
It is expected that the New Schools Advisory group, which is reviewing the pilot survey, will make its recommendations on rolling out the survey nationally to the Minister in a matter of weeks. Educate Together is happy with the fairness to date of the procedures involved in the operation of the survey. All patrons have been operating under a common set of procedures, a set budget and a code of conduct to ensure a fair distribution of information materials to parents. Educate Together acknowledges the importance of these measures as divisive campaigns or excessive expenditure on publicity would not be advantageous to any party involved in this process.
Educate Together looks forward to the publication of the full survey results, and is expecting an update from the Department of Education and Skills on the next steps in the process by mid-2013.
To learn more about the Department of Education’s parental survey visit our campaign page