Majority prefers schools not run by church


THREE OUT of four parents would prefer to send children to primary schools run by patron bodies other than churches, according to a poll. However, a majority of parents surveyed still wants religion taught in school.

The Red C poll, carried out for the Irish Primary Principals Network, found that 30 per cent of parents would prefer to send children to a primary school run by Vocational Education Committees on behalf of the State.

Some 27 per cent of parents would opt for church-run primary schools, 24 per cent would choose multidenominational primary schools and 20 per cent would opt for State-run primary schools.

The survey follows the publication of the report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism, which is advising Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn. It had recommended the phased and gradual divestment of schools from the Catholic Church to other patrons.

Asked about when religious instruction and preparation for the sacraments should be taught, 67 per cent of parents with dependent children who took part in the poll said they wanted the teaching to take place during the school day.

Seán Cottrell, director of the network which represents principals in primary schools of all patronage types, said the poll was “a snapshot of the preferences of broad Irish society, which included parents with and without dependent children, on the type of school they want for their children”.

The network commissioned the research to “gauge parental and wider public opinion on the type of patronage, ethos, religious or otherwise, that should inform primary school education as we embrace changing societal demographics”, he said.

“We are committed to researching the various models and to listening to the voices of parents who are the most important stakeholders . . .”

More than 700 adults were surveyed. Some 45 per cent were parents with dependent children under 16 and the rest had no dependent children.