Hopes Raised as Department Commits to Action on 'Reconfiguration' Areas
- 14 Feb 2017
Educate Together is delighted to announce that in light of recent announcements by the Department of Education and Skills it is reinvigorating the parent campaigns for 16 schools around the country to be divested to Educate Together.
It is hoped that towns in counties Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Mayo, Meath, Tipperary, Wicklow and Waterford and the Palmerstown and Whitehall areas of Dublin will now get the Educate Together national schools they were assured by the Government in 2013. Families in these towns were told nearly four years ago that they would see equality-based schools established for their children, run by Educate Together.
Said Paul Rowe, CEO of Educate Together:
“This is a great news for the parents that have long sought Educate Together national school in these 16 areas throughout Ireland. Educate Together will do its utmost to facilitate the opening of these equality-based schools in collaboration with the Department and relevant Church authorities.”
In 2011, the Government established the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, with the stated aim to create more diversity and inclusiveness in the primary school system. Parental surveys were conducted in 43 areas around Ireland and recommendations were made in 25 areas for Catholic provision to be reconfigured to enable Educate Together schools to open. In the intervening years progress has been slow and difficult, in part due to the insistence that it be a ‘no cost’ solution.
Hopes for parents in 16 areas
However, Educate Together is encouraged by the Department’s Action Plan for Education published last week in which the Minister commits to:
‘commence discussions with existing and prospective patrons on potential “early movers” – schools in respect of which a desire for patronage reassignment has already been expressed.’
This has raised the hopes of many parents in mooted divestment areas around the country that still wait for their Educate Together national schools. Furthermore, the Minister’s plans to accelerate the ‘reconfiguration’ process through leasing buildings from the patron of the majority of schools in Ireland - the Catholic Church - would indicate that the State is finally willing to invest in provision of school choice.
Educate Together is now calling on supporters in Arklow, Ballina, Clonmel, Cobh, Dungarvan, Fermoy, Kells, Killarney, Leixlip, Loughrea, Nenagh, Palmerstown, Passage West, Shannon, Westport and Whitehall to campaign for the equality-based national schools they were promised in 2013. Provision of these schools will alleviate some of the pressure put on parents to baptise their children to gain access to their local school or to ‘opt out’ of religious education in their State-funded but Church-run school which is a growing and major concern amongst families outside urban centres.
Said Linda McNulty, parent in Westport, Co. Mayo:
“Currently there are 13 primary schools in the wider Westport area - 12 of these are Catholic and 1 is Church of Ireland. This does not reflect the religiously diverse and multicultural demographic here in Westport, and there is a high demand among parents for an alternative. An Educate Together national school would greatly enhance the vibrant community of Westport, not merely because of its inclusive equality-based ethos but also its creative approach to education. Thankfully Westport is growing and thriving, but with that we need a school that facilitates the expanding diversity of our community.”
Said Michael Ryan, parent in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, and teacher in Portlaoise Educate Together National School.
‘There is a need for greater choice with regards primary school education in Nenagh. An Educate Together primary school in Nenagh would offer a real choice for parents looking for a co-educational, equality-based model of education for their children."
Representatives of Educate Together are ready to meet with the Department of Education to expedite the opening of these schools and looks forward to collaborating with local communities and other stakeholders to provide children in these 16 areas with a truly equality-based education.
More information on each of these local campaigns can be found here.