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Parents to be polled on taking schools out of Catholic control

The Government has said it will survey parents in 44 areas on whether they want alternative providers to take over primary schools.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

PARENTS WILL BE asked whether they want schools in their area to be managed by the Catholic Church, under new plans announced by the  Government.

Education minister Ruairí Quinn said mothers and fathers of school-age children in 44 areas around Ireland will  be surveyed on their preferences for primary school patronage.

If it emerges that parents want greater diversity, this will be taken into account when deciding whether schools should be taken out of Catholic control. Quinn said yesterday:

For many parents this will be the first time they will have a real say in the type of primary school they want their children to go to, whether it is denominational, multi-denominational, all-Irish or other.

The measures – part of a Government action plan announced yesterday in response to a report by the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism – will see surveys begin as soon as this autumn.

The report recommended that in areas where there is a demand for greater diversity, existing schools should be transferred out of Church patronage rather than building new schools.

Reforms are likely to take place in a phased way, with the 44 areas identified the first to be surveyed. The full list is available here.

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Yesterday the plan was welcomed by Labour figures including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Seanad leader Ivana Bacik.

The Catholic Bishops’ Council for Education said in a statement that it “noted” the release of the action plan. However, the statement welcomed the public consultation process. It added:

The Minister clearly affirms the role of religious education and faith formation in denominational schools.  The Bishops’ Council for Education welcomes this affirmation [...] It is critically important that [parental] consultations engender public confidence and respects the rights and responsibilities of all the stakeholders in our primary schools.

Read: I’ve been caricatured as enemy of the Catholic Church – Quinn>

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Michael Freeman

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