Severe Social Consequences Ahead Unless Gross Inequality in State Support of Education Sectors Addressed

pressetMulti-denominational Education, a Vital Option for the Future of Irish Society

Ireland’s economic development and rapid social diversification demands that the State take action to increase the availability of schools that guarantee equality of access and respect to children irrespective of their social cultural or religious backgrounds.

Yesterday, at the launch of the anti-racist workplace week, Minister for Justice Michael Mc Dowell stated, We need to set standards for the treatment of immigrants now so that we will not see in 10 or 15 years’ time – scenes unfolding like those in Paris.

Currently there is huge inequality in State support for educational sectors in Ireland. Educate Together is the only secular, transparent and accountable primary school management structure, opening new multi-denominational schools. It will be forced to wind down operations regardless of demand to open schools in 30 areas across the country without increased State support. The sector currently struggles to survive on a grant of less then €42,000 per annum.

At present, only Educate Together schools provide this model of school management and ethos. International experience and current scenes in Paris heavily underline the necessity for this provision and point to severe social consequences if appropriate and timely action is not taken. This has been emphasised by the UN in its observations on Ireland’s report on the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Educate Together remains the only primary patronage system that is legally bound to provide equality of access and esteem to children irrespective of their social, cultural or religious backgrounds. An exception amongst such patron bodies, it is bound by all nine grounds of the State’s equality legislation. This means that no child can be refused a place in an Educate Together school on the basis of religion, gender, family background or ethnic background. The model successfully addresses the legal rights of children, parents and staff, ensuring that no child is isolated as a result of their family’s religious views and no teacher has to teach as religious truth a viewpoint they do not hold themselves.

It is particularly difficult to understand how the State will be able to address the diverse educational needs of thousands of new families moving into rapidly developing housing areas all over the country if the Educate Together movement is not immediately put on a firm, statutory, financial footing.