A leading Catholic educationalist has accused Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn of exaggerating the level of parental demand for a wider diversity of school patrons.
Prof Eamonn Conway, head of the department of theology and religious studies at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, said the recent surveys in five pilot areas proved to be a “surprising endorsement of denominational education”.
He said: “If the pilot survey is indicative, then the demand is not as great as the Minister anticipated.’’ While the Government put a brave face on the survey results, the reality was that a large number of the parents who responded indicated they wished to have their children educated in Catholic schools.
“The actual number of parents who expressed an opinion in favour of change in each of the five areas polled in the pilot survey amounted to between 5 and 8 per cent, evidence of parental demand, certainly, but hardly of a “strong” or “clear” demand or “clear need” for greater choice, as the findings were reported in the press.
“Moreover, a large majority of parents did not participate in the survey at all.”
The turnout ranged from 22 per cent to 44 per cent in the pilot survey in five areas last year. Parents in a further 38 areas are now being surveyed on their preferred choice of school patron. They have until February 8th to participate in the survey.
Prof Conway said the church welcomed greater provision of alternative school patronage and “hopes that this will enable the schools that remain Catholic to get on with being so, without any expectation that their ethos will be diminished or diluted by the need to accommodate those of other faiths or none’’.