Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Parents have right to choose Catholic schools: Iona

What parents want ought to be “front and centre” in the debate over education, the Iona Institute has said.

In a statement yesterday, the director of the Institute, David Quinn, said that the real question in the education debate “isn’t whether the Church or the State should control our primary schools, but what do parents want?”

His statement came in the wake of a poll published by the Irish Times yesterday, which revealed that, in the wake of the publicity surrounding the Catholic Church, a majority of people want the Church to relinquish control of primary schools.

According to the poll, carried out by MRBI, 61 per cent of people said the church should give up control of the school system, 28 per cent said it should maintain its position and 11 per cent had no opinion on the matter.

There were no great differences in terms of age. Over 65s were marginally more supportive of the church’s position, but the views of the 18-24 age group were almost identical.

The poll focused on the fall out in the wake of the Murphy report into the handling of child sex abuse by the Dublin archdiocese.

The statement by Iona, however, claimed that that the poll ignored “the right of parents to send their children to a publicly-funded school of their choice.”

A poll conducted last summer by Red C on behalf of The Iona Institute, shows that a clear majority of people (72 percent) “support the principle of parental choice with regard to schools.”

Quinn continued, “The right of parents to have their children educated according to their own beliefs is enshrined in both domestic and international law. There are undoubtedly too many Catholic schools at present compared to the real level of demand for them, but nonetheless publicly-funded denominational schools have a right to exist.”

He added, “This isn’t an ‘either/or’ issue, that is, it isn’t a question of either the Church or the State running our schools. Instead, and within reason, there should be different kinds of publicly-funded schools reflecting the wishes of parents, as there is in England where a third of publicly-funded schools are denominational.”

The Red C poll commissioned by The Iona Institute asked respondents to choose between two statements and found the following results:

  1. ‘In a modern society all publicly-funded schools should be run by the State’ – 25 percent chose this statement.
  2. 'Parents should be allowed the right to choose from a variety of publicly-funded schools for their children, including Church-run schools’ – 72 percent chose this statement.

A previous Red C for The Iona Institute, conducted in April 2008, also asked people what kind of school they would send their children to, given a choice.

Exactly half said they would send their children to a denominational school.
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