School patronage survey queried

Fri, Dec 14, 2012, 00:00

Only a tiny percentage of parents in some areas favour changes to school patronage, according to a senior figure in Catholic education.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has claimed the results of parental surveys in five pilot areas show a strong demand for change. After the publication of the survey results this week, the Department of Education hopes to begin the process of handing over Catholic-run schools to other patron bodies by September 2014.

However, Father Michael Drumm of the Catholic Schools Partnership maintains only 25 per cent of relevant parents in the areas surveyed responded to the survey.

“ I am not clear as to why the Department of Education cannot publish the exact statistic on the percentage of parents who participated. I think people should look at the real figures. Take Arklow – those who want change are parents of 80 children in a school population of 1,965. That is only 4 per cent .’’

Parents surveyed

Parents in Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore, Trim and Whitehall in Dublin were surveyed on school patronage last month.

Parents in 39 other areas – also identified as those where the Catholic Church is over-represented – will be surveyed next month.

Mr Quinn has said he would like to see 50 per cent of all schools divested from Catholic control. Yesterday, Father Drumm said the survey results did not provide a mandate for this kind of radical change.

“Those who expressed an opinion in favour of change amount in each of the five areas to less than 10 per cent of parents.’’

Consultation process

“It must be noted that this is not a survey in the ordinary sense of the term as it is not based on a representative sample. Rather it is a consultation process with parents. What we learned is that close to 10 per cent of parents with children in Catholic schools would prefer another form of patronage. The partners should work together to reconfigure the system so that it responds to this level of demand for additional forms of patronage in a particular area.”

In other reaction, the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference said the survey results show “significant affirmation of Catholic schools. In looking to the future it is clear that a very large number of parents wish to have their children educated in Catholic schools.’’

In looking to the future, it says Catholic patrons will need to consult all stakeholders in Catholic schools as they seek to “reconfigure the system to take account of the minority of parents who desire a change in patronage.’’

Over the next six months, the Catholic Church will be asked to identify schools which could be divested in the five pilot areas.