State education body denies ‘cosy deal’ in school transfer plan

Education and Training Board says it will have impartial role in plan to transfer patronage from religious schools

A State education provider has rejected claims that it is involved in any "cosy" deal with the Catholic Church over plans to transfer patronage away from hundreds of religious schools.

As part of a new initiative announced by Minister for Education Richard Bruton, Education and Training Boards (ETBs) will be involved in measuring demand for multidenominational education.

Educate Together, the main provider of multidenominational education, claims the project appears to be a "cosy deal" between the Catholic Church and new community national schools run by ETBs. Many Catholic Church figures are keen on community national schools on the basis that they allow for faith-formation classes.

In a statement, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) rejected "misinformation" about its model of education which it said was being spread by other education providers and organisations.


It said its role in measuring demand for multidenominational education would simply be a data-gathering process.


While critics have questioned its ability to act impartially given that it will also be applying to become a patron of these schools, the ETBI said the Minister for Education would put protocols in place to “ensure transparency and fairness”.

The ETBI also said in a statement that it had been wrongly accused of running “religious” schools.

“They are more properly described as multidenominational schools. They are open for children of all faiths and secular beliefs; and all the children’s beliefs are nurtured within the school day.”

In relation to claims it is segregating children, the group said all children in its community national schools were taught a “belief-nurturing programme”.

“The children are taught the lessons together with their class teacher in a critical [questioning], pluralist and objective manner in line with international best practice,” it said.

Faiths and beliefs

“Children can also avail of belief-specific teaching for a limited amount of time each year, in which they can learn specifically about their own faith or belief. This is done in consultation with parents, and can be availed of by children of all faiths and beliefs.”

The organisation said its community national schools worked closely with all local belief leaders. “Forming these close relationships and having belief leaders involved in supporting the school is a central part of the ethos of a community national school.

“This is not exclusive to any one group. As these schools reflect their local community, this support is integral to the life of the school.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent