Catholic school guidelines on inclusion to be published later this year

Bishops welcome Department’s rejection of ‘one-size-fits-all’ model

Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute said the report appeared to strike the right balance between making denominational schools more genuinely inclusive while also respecting the ethos and identity of those schools. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Breda O’Brien of the Iona Institute said the report appeared to strike the right balance between making denominational schools more genuinely inclusive while also respecting the ethos and identity of those schools. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Wed, Jul 2, 2014, 17:21

The Catholic Bishops council for education says it hopes to see guidelines published later this year on how its schools can be as inclusive as possible.

In a statement, the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference said it welcomed the Department of Education’s update report on the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.

“It is clear that many schools have developed good practice with regard to the inclusive education of all children within the school community,” the bishops council said.

The latest report would be “helpful in sharing such good practices across the system,” it continued.

“The Catholic Schools Partnership is developing guidelines for Catholic schools in this area and hopes to publish these later in 2014. These guidelines will be informed by, and build on, the recommendations in [THE]report.”

The council said it was committed to on-going engagement with the Department and “it agrees that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution with regard to these recommendations, and the best way forward is based on ‘principles such as good communication, clarity on rights and responsibilities, openness to dialogue and flexibility’.”

The Catholic think-tank the Iona Institute also welcomed the report , saying it was a “ step in the right direction”.

In a statement, Breda O’Brien, a patron of the institute and Irish Times columnist, said the original set of recommendations from the forum would have resulted in the ethos of denominational schools being too watered down.

“This report is far more moderate and appears to strike the right balance between making denominational schools more genuinely inclusive while also respecting the ethos and identity of those schools.”

In its report, the Department says it accepts “one size does not fit all” in the realm of diversity but it advocates better communication between patrons and parents.

A number of options are proposed to facilitate children opting out of religious instruction, including moving them to another room for supervision, or to another class during faith formation lessons.

The report also notes that the divestment of patronage “has not been as rapid as originally envisaged”. Some 90 per cent of the state’s 3,169 primary schools are under Catholic patronage, and only one Catholic school has changed patronage since the divestment process began.