McHugh to review process for selecting schools for divestment

‘Inaccurate claims’ about patronage creating fear and uncertainty, says Minister

Minister for Education Joe McHugh hits out at  claims  that students would be prevented from celebrating events such as Christmas or Easter under a multidenominational patron. Photograph: Jim Coughlan

Minister for Education Joe McHugh hits out at claims that students would be prevented from celebrating events such as Christmas or Easter under a multidenominational patron. Photograph: Jim Coughlan

 

The process for selecting Catholic schools for divestment is set to be reviewed by the Department of Education following “scaremongering” targeted at parents.

It follows a row in north Co Dublin where the department has requested that one Catholic school out of eight in the Malahide-Portmarnock-Kinsealy area divest its patronage.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh has hit out at inaccurate claims being made by schools that students would be prevented from celebrating events such as Christmas or Easter under a multidenominational patron.

“Just to be clear – Christmas will not be cancelled. Neither will any typical school holiday like Easter or St Patrick’s Day. Pancake Tuesday won’t be banned. Nor will holidays or celebrations associated with the ancient Celtic/pagan festival of Halloween,” he said.

The Minister said a considerable amount of inaccurate information was being shared about what would happen if a school changed patron.

“These assertions have not been helpful. They are also creating fear and uncertainty,” he said.

“School authorities have a duty to share accurate and appropriate information.”

Mr McHugh said assessing areas for potential new patrons was not about forcing change, adding no changes would be made by next September.

“I am appealing directly to schools, management bodies and boards of management not to issue claims that have no basis in fact,” he said.

“It is a bad example to be setting, particularly for those of us working to educate our young people.”

Review

A spokesman for the Minister confirmed that the process for divesting schools would be reviewed in light of concerns expressed in recent days.

“The Minister has said that he is always open to changing the way the department does things. If something can be improved, it will be improved. He is taking this seriously,” a spokesman said.

Some parents have complained of scaremongering and say they have been asked to vote on changing patrons without any clear idea of who might take over the running of a school.

“We have no access to objective information. Everything we hear is how bad losing our patron will be for the school. At the very least, we should get to hear from potential multidenominational patron bodies,” said one parent, who declined to be named.

Others say they have been “left in the dark” on the consequences of local votes and how schools might ultimately be selected for divestment.

Laura Mulvey, the parent of a child at Scoil an Duinnínigh in Swords, said the lack of clear information for parents was causing “stress and anxiety” among parents and children.

“Parents have very grave concerns which need to be addressed,” she said.