School patron survey opens to parents

 

Parents in 38 areas can vote from today for their preferred choice of primary school patron.

The survey is designed to establish the level of demand from parents for diversity of school patronage in each of the towns and suburbs. At present, more than 90 per cent or 3,000 schools are under the remit of the Catholic Church.

Parents of all children aged 12 and under can participate in the survey; this can be accessed online via education.ieuntil February 8th.

The survey initiative is in line with the recommendations of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary sector. Last year, there was controversy about the outcome of surveys in the five towns chosen for the initial stage of the process: Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore, Trim and Whitehall in Dublin.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn claimed the results in the pilot areas showed a strong demand for change. However, Fr Michael Drumm of the Catholic Schools Partnership said only a small percentage of parents in some areas favour changes to school patronage. He claimed that only 25 per cent of relevant parents surveyed responded .

Fr Drumm said he could not understand why the Department of Education cannot publish the exact statistic on the percentage of parents who participated. “I think people should look at the real figures. Take Arklow – those who want change are parents of 80 children in a school population of 1,965. That is only 4 per cent .”

If the latest survey backs change, the department will ask existing patrons to come up with a plan to transfer some schools to other patron bodies. The department hopes to begin the process of handing over Catholic-run schools to other patron bodies by September 2014.

‘Real say’

Mr Quinn said the survey represents a “historic opportunity for parents to have a real say in the type of school they wish to send their children to, be it denominational, multi-denominational, all-Irish or other”.

There are 311 primary schools in the 38 areas which will be surveyed.

The bodies which have indicated that they would like to become patrons of any divested schools in the identified areas are the VECs, An Foras Patrúnachta, Educate Together and, in a small number of areas, the National Learning Network and the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

A comprehensive information campaign by the department in each of the areas begins today.

Helpline:1800 303621

Patrons: Areas in survey

Ballina, Ballinasloe, Ballyfermot/ Chapelizod/ Palmerstown/ Cherry Orchard, Bandon; Birr , Buncrana , Carrick-on-Suir, Carrigaline, Celbridge, Clonmel , Cobh , Dublin 6, Dungarvan, Edenderry, Enniscorthy, Fermoy, Kells, Killarney, Leixlip, Longford , Loughrea , Malahide, Monaghan, Nenagh, New Ross, Passage West, Portmarnock, Roscommon, Roscrea, Rush, Shannon, Skerries, Thurles,Tipperary, Tuam, Westport , Wicklow and Youghal.