Church of Ireland archbishop refuses to dissolve Greystones school board

Controversy over school admissions policy which prioritises church attendance

Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson has refused to dissolve the board of management at a primary school in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Church of Ireland Archbishop Michael Jackson has refused to dissolve the board of management at a primary school in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin has refused to dissolve the board of management at a primary school in Greystones following protests by parents over controversial admission policies.

His intervention follows the resignation of a long-serving principal at St Patrick’s National School in protest over a policy that prioritises the enrolment of children who regularly attend church services.

Parents at the school last week overwhelmingly voted to back the principal and urged the board be dissolved at an extraordinary general meeting of its parent-teacher association.

In a statement, Archbishop Jackson - the school’s patron - acknowledged that while St Patrick’s was facing challenging times, there was no evidence that the board was “dysfunctional”.

“There will be many occasions where disagreements arise between board members and within school communities. However, disagreements in and of themselves are not evidence that a board of management is dysfunctional,” he said.

“In this instance, while the patron is aware that there are many different points of view, he has not been provided with any information that would indicate that the functions of the board of management are not currently being effectively discharged.

He added: “The Church of Ireland ethos of the school and decisions made by the board of management in the past remain unchanged. The board of management will continue to manage the school and the school will continue to educate the children entrusted to its care.”

Dr Jackson added that the current chair, Canon David Mungavin, has asked for a temporary break from the duties of chairing the board. He is being replaced by Canon Adrienne Galligan.

In response, the parents’ subcommittee of St Patrick’s parent teacher association expressed its regret that the patron had not responded to its request to discuss ways of resolve issues at the school.

“Respectfully, it is suggested that the patron might wish to hear from all stakeholders before making any decisions or public pronouncements in this matter,” the sub-committee said.

“It would appear that he consulted only with the very board of management which was the subject of the no confidence motion overwhelmingly passed at the EGM.

“It is difficult to see how the patron could have made a determination that he was ‘satisfied’ that the functions of the board were being effectively discharged without seeking the views, opinions and experiences of interested parties other than the board itself.”

Another source of controversy at the school has involved a decision by the board to turn down an extra teacher the school was entitled to for the coming academic year.

Some parents claim the move was to prevent school numbers growing and potentially diluting its Church of Ireland ethos.

However, Dr Jackson said in a statement there was no reason to expand the school and this position was supported by a Department of Education statement that they would not build an additional classroom for an extra teacher.

The parents’ committee, however, said its concerns were focused on the school’s enrolment policy.

On the hiring of an additional teacher, it said there was “ample” capacity to accommodate an extra class, given that one classroom was empty and another was being rented out.