Cap on enrolments and Educate Together
Sir, – After the long struggle that Educate Together has endured in order to establish a small number of schools free from theocratic doctrine, it is now informed by the Department of Education that it must restrict potential pupils’ access due to other schools in its areas potentially suffering an adverse effect (“Children turned away from Educate Together schools due to ‘restrictions’”, News, February 3rd).
This is an extremely regressive and most unwelcome step; particularly as all indicators point to an increasingly secular population.
Mass attendances are at all-time lows, each census shows huge increases in people professing a lack of religious belief and demand for non-religiously influenced education is higher than ever.
The idea that, because people are choosing Educate Together schools over religious ones, the State must intervene and force parents to choose a religious education in order to “preserve a balance among all schools in an area and to ensure that one school is not expanding at the expense of another” is the type of rationale one would expect in a theocracy.
If the demand is not there for other schools because of parents choosing to send their children to Educate Together then surely the appropriate response is to allow the less popular schools to run smaller classes or, better still, divest their school to other patrons, rather than forcing popular ones to turn away potential students.
Non-religious families already face educational discrimination by way of the baptism barrier; let’s not exacerbate that with this type of backwards state intervention. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Government proposals in Co Waterford to restrict non-denominational school places have not been prominent in the past when Catholic school privilege prevailed – a point highlighted in the forum on patronage and pluralism.
The Educate Together schools, as well as others, have striven to provide alternate provision for “children of all faiths and none”.
To restrict choice in this matter is a breach of European human rights law to which Ireland is a party, and which contravenes the State’s obligation to respect the “religious and philosophical convictions of parents” in matters related to their children’s education.
Furthermore, enrolment restriction on this basis is a retrograde step in a multicultural, multifaith and increasingly secular society which has and continues to attract a workforce emanating from around the world. – Yours, etc,
Professor of Education,
University of Limerick.