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School patronage survey is a stalling tactic

A chronic lack of leadership and ambition

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott
The Irish Times - Letters to the Editor.

Sir, – The latest developments in school patronage throw a helpful spotlight on the absence of reform in Irish education (“Parents to be polled on school preferences in bid to accelerate school choice”, Education, June 11th).

The Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector reported in April 2012. If a national parental survey were deemed a necessary component of the resulting process, it should have happened long ago.

The fact that it has taken over 12 years to move just one school from the largest religious patron (the Catholic Church) to the largest multidenominational patron (Educate Together) is indicative of the chronic lack of leadership and ambition in this area.

After four years in office, Minister for Education Norma Foley has yet to map a path towards the Government’s goal of having “at least” 400 multidenominational primary schools by 2030. Her comment that progress is “not as quick as I would like” appears to be a tacit acknowledgment that this target has been quietly shelved.


We estimate that we are unlikely to reach 400 multidenominational schools, which represents just 12 per cent of our national primary school network - before 2171.

Even if this target were to be achieved on schedule, however, it does nothing to address children’s and teachers’ clearly enshrined human and constitutional rights throughout the remainder of our education system.

This endless process is not only an abject failure, but also entirely unnecessary. We can achieve equal respect for children and teachers alike by offering religious instruction and sacramental preparation classes on an opt-in basis outside core hours in all publicly funded schools, rather than treating them as an integral part of the curriculum.

Education Equality has contacted Minister for Education Norma Foley on several occasions to put our proposals to her personally. She has been unavailable to meet us. Our most recent email to her office in November 2023 did not receive a response.

We are now seeking a meeting with Taoiseach Simon Harris.

The vindication of established rights should not depend on the views of others. This upcoming parental survey is intended not to chart a pathway towards educational reform, but rather to protect the status quo while creating the illusion of action.

Furthermore, it has been deliberately timed to report to the next government. The political machinations at play here are crystal clear.

Finally, whatever happened to the citizens’ assembly on the future of education? It must be sitting on a shelf somewhere, alongside our 400 multidenominational schools.

Will the Government finally sit down and do its own homework? That seems unlikely.

It may, however, invest in a bigger shelf. – Yours, etc,


Communications Officer,

Education Equality,


Co Dublin.