Archbishop’s comments on school admissions welcomed

Diarmuid Martin said presenting a baptism cert not an appropriate way to judge access

A children’s rights group has welcomed comments from Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin who says he does not believe presenting baptismal certificates is an appropriate way to judge access to a school.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

A children’s rights group has welcomed comments from Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin who says he does not believe presenting baptismal certificates is an appropriate way to judge access to a school. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

A children’s rights group has welcomed comments from Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin who says he does not believe presenting baptismal certificates is an appropriate way to judge access to a school.

Michael Barron, executive director of Equate, said the Archbishop’s comments were “extremely important in progressing education reform in Ireland. ”

He pointed out that a recent Bevaviour and Attitudes poll for the group showed one in five people “are aware of someone who has baptised their child just to get them into the local school”.

Speaking on Thursday the Archbishop said: “I do not believe that presenting baptismal certificates is an appropriate way to judge access to a school.”

“It isn’t just that parents shouldn’t be presenting children to be baptised in that way but priests shouldn’t be doing it either,” he added.

Equate is a children’s rights organisation which advocates change in how primary and secondary school education is delivered in Ireland. It believes the education system should reflect the growing diversity of Irish society.

The New York Times on Friday reported on a so called “baptism barrier” which it said was influencing admission to public schools in Ireland. It cites the case of a boy who was apparently rejected admission by nine local schools in south Dublin last year because he was not baptised.

Mr Barron also drew attention to a recent report prepared by Tower Watson consultants for the Dublin Council of Priests which said that “some of the strong correlation between baptisms and birth rates’ was likely due to admissions policies of Catholic schools”.

Equate believes the Government should amend the Equal Status Act so that schools can “no longer legally refuse a school place to a child because of their religion or non-religion”.

“We have called on all political parties to put this proposal in their election manifestos and we are working to make amending this a priority for the next Government,” Mr Barron said.

The Bevaviour and Attitudes poll he referred to also found that 46 per cent of those polled would not chose a Christian school for their child if they had a choice locally; 84 per cent believe no child is excluded from a school because of their religion or non-religion; 77 per cent do not believe a school should have right to refuse admission to a child with a different religion to that of the school patron.

It also found that 62 per cent believe reform of school patronage should be a key priority for next Government; 87 per cent believe the State has responsibility to ensure that children do not experience religious discrimination in the school curriculum; and 82 per cent believe Ireland should honour its international human rights obligations to ensure equality in education.