Forty-four town areas including Longford have been selected to conduct a survey over school patronage as efforts are made to remove the Church from primary school governance.
In what is being described as “a landmark move”, the Department of Education and Skills will survey parents in the 44 locations throughout October and November in a process that may well see some schools transferred to other patrons.
Educate Together has welcomed the commitment from the Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn, which is a follow on from his consideration of the report from the Forum on Pluralism and Patronage in the Primary Sector.
“This should begin a process of divestment of a number of primary schools under the patronage of Catholic bishops to other patrons, including Educate Together,” Regional Development Officer, Educate Together in the West of Ireland, Jarlath Munnelly said. “The Minister outlined a process by which primary schools under denominational patronage, typically a Catholic Bishop, can be divested to another patron, such as Educate Together, to provide greater diversity of schools. The process includes a parental survey to ascertain the views of parents in the areas where these changes are to be considered. It will be piloted in 44 areas across the country, including Longford, driven by the Department of Education and Skills. This process is expected to happen during October and November this year. Many parents in Co Longford have expressed an interest in having an Educate Together school near them; now parents in Longford Town will be surveyed later this year to see what type of school they would like to have.”
Meanwhile the Minister said that he expects the surveys to take place “in a calm and respectful manner and without any media frenzy”. “A public information campaign will be rolled out and parents will be provided with information on the various possible patron bodies,” he explained. “My department will consult with the patron bodies on a code of practice, which will ensure that local discussions are conducted in reasonable fashion.”
Presently, the Church controls approximately 3,000 of the 3,200 primary schools in the Republic of Ireland. In a recent radio interview, Minister Quinn stated, “1,500 stand-alone schools in rural areas will have to remain under Catholic control as we can’t have three or four schools at every crossroads.”