The Church of Ireland community is being "torn apart" due to controversy over enrolment policies at a school which is giving priority to children who regularly attend church services, it has been claimed.
Rev Edgar Swann, the former chairman of the board of management at St Patrick's National School in Greystones, Co Wicklow, has written to the Archbishop of Dublin to say the controversy is bringing the church into "public ridicule" and has called for the current board to be dissolved.
“The matter is damaging the school, which has lost excellent teachers, and it is causing a serious crisis in the parish,” he stated.
His intervention follows the resignation of a long-serving principal, Eileen Jackson, at St Patrick’s National School in protest over its “parish engagement” enrolment policy.
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.
I would respectfully suggest that the only way forward here is the dissolution of the board, a time for healing and a completely new beginning
The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, the school’s patron, has refused to dissolve the board of management in the face of calls to do so by parents.
He acknowledged that while St Patrick’s was facing challenging times, there was no evidence that the board was “dysfunctional”.
In his letter to the Archbishop, Rev Swann, the former rector for Greystones, expresses serious concern at the developments.
“I have no wish to interfere in the internal matters of my old parish and school, but I find I can be silent no longer,” he wrote.
“I would respectfully suggest that the only way forward here is the dissolution of the board, a time for healing and a completely new beginning. If this does not come from the patron, it may well be precipitated by the Minister for Education.
You can of course ignore this letter, but it is breaking my heart to see what is happening and it will not bode well for the school or parish
“This matter is damaging the school, which has lost excellent teachers and it is causing a serious crisis in the parish.
“There is a serious feeling among the parent body that no one in authority will engage with them. There is frustration and anger and it is mounting by the day.
“You can of course ignore this letter, but it is breaking my heart to see what is happening and it will not bode well for the school or parish and it brings the Church of Ireland into public ridicule.”
In a statement at the weekend, Archbishop Jackson said the school ethos and decisions by the board will 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,” he said.
Board of management sources say the enrolment policy has been in place for four years and feel the controversy is linked to its decision to turn down an extra teacher.
Some sympathetic to the board also feel much parental opposition is linked to a secular agenda.
The parents’ subcommittee of St Patrick’s parent-teacher association, meanwhile, has expressed its regret that the patron had not responded to its request to discuss ways of resolving 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, in a statement.