Demand for new school patronage 'lower than predicted'

Catholic Schools Partnership seeks clarity on viable school sizes

Sat, Apr 13, 2013, 18:45

The head of the Catholic Schools Partnership has described as "disappointing" the number of parents who participated in the recent survey of parental preferences on school patroange conducted by the Department of Education.

Speaking at the AGM of the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA), Fr Michael Drumm said that "those who predicted high levels of interest in the surveys have been proven wrong."

"Evidence from school principals and others on the ground suggests that, in most areas, it was very difficult to get parents to participate in the process. The number of parents who say that they will avail of change is lower than predicted," he said.

Fr Drumm was responding to comments made by the Minister for Education to the CPSMAon Friday.

Ruairi Quinn said he said he was "encouraged" by the response rate of parents, and that there was sufficient demand in two thirds of the areas surveyed to "support immediate change in the existing school patronage".

Forty three areas have been surveyed to date.

Mr Quinn said he would be "disappointed" not to see provision made for new patronage in the identified areas by September 2014.

Fr Drumm expressed concerns about the threshold criteria set for viable schools by the Department as part of the patronage process.

"The most important decision made by the authors of the report is the choice of a four-teacher school as the threshold for a viable school under a different patron," he said.

"It is notable that the minimum required enrolment for a new school for many years has been…dependent on reaching 51 pupils in a three-year cohort. It appears there are two different criteria being used in determining the viability of a new school depending on whether the new school emerges from a process of reconfiguration or whether it is a new start-up school."