Monday, January 16, 2017

Group claims 'nobody has been refused entry' to Catholic schools outside Dublin

A group representing Catholic primary schools is insisting there is no baptism requirement for their school places.

It comes as the Minister for Education Richard Bruton is due to announce plans this morning to legislate on the controversial school admissions system.

Under the so-called 'baptism barrier', many children cannot access religious primary schools unless they have been baptised in a Christian faith.

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The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association says it only arises in cases of oversubscription for school places, when preference may then be given to a baptised child.

General Secretary Seamus Mulconry insists it is mostly a problem in the Dublin area.

He said: "There are a few in the commuter belt, but the vast majority of oversubscribed schools are in Dublin, and in affluent areas in Dublin.


"Nobody has been refused entry down the country, because their child hasn't been baptised, because oversubscription is not happening in rural areas."

In a speech later today, it is believed the Minister will say he believes it is unfair that publicly funded religious schools are able to give preference to children of their own religion ahead of those of no religion who may live closer to the school.

On Newstalk Breakfast, the Minister said he is aiming to ensure Ireland has "the best education service in Europe", and wants the system to accommodate people of different faiths.

"Ireland has changed very substantially, and we now need to respond to the new environment", he said. "Many parents want choice and don't marry in the Catholic or any other denominational setting."

Minister Bruton said allowances need to be made for these families as 96% of primary schools are denominational.

Meanwhile, new research by the campaign group EQUATE shows that almost one in four parents of children of school-going age would not have baptised their child if they did not need it to gain entry to their local school.

EQUATE Executive Director Michael Barron says there is growing momentum across Irish society to remove the baptism barrier.

He said: "We've heard from parents who actually regret baptising their children against their beliefs solely on the basis of getting their children into a local school", he said. "We heard last year from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who said he really did not believe in the practice of baptising children to get into your local school.

"I think there's widespread agreement that it's really not a practice that anybody can really support in a modern democracy."

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