Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Parents surveyed on school patronage

Parents in 38 areas can vote from today for their preferred choice of primary school patron.

The survey is designed to establish the level of demand from parents for diversity of school patronage in each of the towns and suburbs. 

At present, more than 90 per cent of schools, or 3,000 of them, are under the remit of the Catholic Church.

Parents of all children aged 12 and under can participate in the survey, which can be accessed online via education.ie until February 8th.

The survey initiative is in line with the recommendations of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector. Last year, there was controversy over the outcome of surveys in the five towns chosen for the initial stage of the process: Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore, Trim and Whitehall, a suburb of Dublin.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn claimed the results in the pilot areas showed a strong demand for change. 

However, Fr Michael Drumm of the Catholic Schools Partnership said only a small percentage of parents in some areas favour changes to school patronage. He claimed only 25 per cent of relevant parents surveyed had responded.

Fr Drumm said he could not understand why the Department of Education cannot publish the exact statistic on the percentage of parents who participated. “I think people should look at the real figures. 

Take Arklow - those who want change are parents of 80 children in a school population of 1,965. That is only 4 per cent.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Quinn said participation had ranged from 25 to 44 per cent, which was “disappointing”.

He said there had not been enough publicity surrounding the survey, and that it had taken place during mid-term which may have resulted in a lower turnout.

The period for this consultation will be extended from three weeks to four, and an information leaflet prepared by the Department of Education will be delivered to every house in the 38 survey areas, the Minister said.

If the latest survey backs change, the department will ask existing patrons to come up with a plan to transfer some schools to other patron bodies. The relevant bishops will have a maximum of six months to indicate which schools could be divested of their patronage.

“We need enough to show there is a demand for a school of a different ethos to the Catholic Church, and in the pilot survey that took place last autumn, enough parents did show that there was a demand for such a school in the five areas,” Mr Quinn said today.

The department hopes to begin the process of handing over Catholic-run schools to other patron bodies by September 2014.

‘Real say’ 

Mr Quinn said the survey represents a “historic opportunity for parents to have a real say in the type of school they wish to send their children to, be it denominational, multi-denominational, all-Irish or other”.

There are 311 primary schools in the 38 areas which will be surveyed.

The bodies which have indicated they would like to become patrons of any divested schools in the identified areas are the VECs, An Foras Patrúnachta, Educate Together and, in a small number of areas, the National Learning Network and the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

Helpline: 1800 303621

Patrons: Areas in survey 

Ballina, Ballinasloe, Ballyfermot/ Chapelizod/ Palmerstown/ Cherry Orchard, Bandon, Birr, Buncrana, Carrick-on-Suir, Carrigaline, Celbridge, Clonmel, Cobh, Dublin 6, Dungarvan, Edenderry, Enniscorthy, Fermoy, Kells, Killarney, Leixlip, Longford, Loughrea, Malahide, Monaghan, Nenagh, New Ross, Passage West, Portmarnock, Roscommon, Roscrea, Rush, Shannon, Skerries, Thurles, Tipperary, Tuam, Westport, Wicklow and Youghal.

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