Educate Together welcomes announcement of new school transfer process, and calls for parents’ voices to be heard in school system reconfiguration

Educate Together has welcomed the recent announcement of the transfer of a Catholic school in Nenagh, County Tipperary, to ETB patronage, and plans for school transfers in nine more areas.

Responding to news earlier this week of an agreement between the Department of Education and denominational patrons aimed at providing multi-denominational school options in the towns of Arklow, Athlone, Dundalk and Youghal, as well as some areas of Dublin, Cork and Galway, Educate Together is seeking clarity on how parents and local communities will be consulted on any proposed patronage changes. Following a meeting with Department officials yesterday morning, Educate Together is now awaiting details on how this new plan will operate.

Educate Together has long campaigned for greater choice for families in towns like Nenagh, where until recently the only option was for children to attend denominational primary schools. While welcoming the announcement, Educate Together has expressed some concerns, and is seeking reassurance that parents will be consulted and provided with accurate information in future processes.

Despite the fact that Department surveys conducted in 2012 showed Educate Together to be the patron of choice among parents in Nenagh, the school patron body has confirmed that it was not approached by the Department of Education or the local Bishop in relation to this transfer, nor was it provided with an opportunity to engage with parents in the schools being reconfigured.

Speaking about this development, Emer Nowlan, CEO said:

“We are delighted that parents in Nenagh will now have the choice of a co-educational and multi-denominational school. For the past ten years since the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, families have been waiting for change in towns across the country. We hope that this development reflects a renewed commitment to supporting that change on the part of Catholic patrons and the Department of Education, and we hope that parents will be provided with clear information and the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

“As leaders in the provision of equality-based education in Ireland for more than 40 years, and as the most popular patron with parents in patronage selection processes, Educate Together is keen to work together with all stakeholders to ensure the Government’s target to provide at least 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030 is met.”

400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030

Despite over a decade of commitments from successive Governments to diversify choice in the primary school system, less than 20 equality-based / multi-denominational schools have been established in Ireland under this process. It is now undeniable that the pace of change in this area has been far too slow to date.

To increase the diversity of school type in Ireland on a significant scale, Educate Together has made a number of recommendations:

  • Publish a clear strategy to increase equality-based provision in order to achieve the government’s own target of at least 400 multi-denominational primary schools by 2030.
  • Work with communities to ensure the provision of clear, non-partisan information on school transfers, and to ensure informed and meaningful consultation at local level.
  • Prioritise and support the transfer of viable schools to equality-based, multi-denominational and non-denominational school patrons in line with proven parental demand.
  • Establish Educate Together national schools in the following towns, where Government commitments were made back in 2013: Arklow, Clonmel, Cobh, Dungarvan, Kells, Killarney, Loughrea, Nenagh, Palmerstown, Passage West, Shannon and Whitehall.
  • Discuss the issue at a Citizens Assembly on education so that the whole of society can be involved in finding solutions that have broad support.