Minister says Catholic school ethos not threatened


THE Minister for Education has assured Catholic secondary school managers and principals that the Government's purpose in the Education Bill is not to lessen the status or harm the ethos of Catholic schools.

Addressing the annual conference of the Association of Managers of Catholic Secondary Schools in Waterford, Ms Breathnach noted that the AMCSS newsletter had asked: "To what extent must the present models of Catholic education be maintained and protected? Do we adopt a siege mentality and say `We cannot have any model but this model' or do we start to look in different ways at the provision of Catholic education?"

The Minister said these questions raised other basic questions, such as: "What is a Catholic school? How do you define it? Is it defined by ownership, or parents, or management, or teachers, or religious instruction, or by the characteristic spirit which pervades the school, or by a combination of those elements'?"

She assured the delegates that the position of denominational schools and the religious ethos of these schools were underpinned by the Constitution. "Despite any assertions to the contrary, it is not the Government's purpose to lessen in any way their status or harm their ethos in any of the measures proposed in the Education Bill."

Referring to the pay and promotions package which the secondary school managers have rejected, the Minister acknowledged that it was not as satisfactory as she would have wished. However, she pointed to its "very positive aspects". All deputy principal posts would henceforth be filled by competition and there would be a significant increase in the number of assistant principal posts, with great potential to improve in school management. "Notwithstanding the appointment procedures, these posts can, and I'm sure will, provide significant assistance to principals."

She asked the delegates to cooperate with the new arrangements.