Educate Together and parental choice

 

Sir, – Reports of multidenominational schools being forced to turn away large numbers of junior infants (“Children turned away from Educate Together schools due to ‘restrictions’”, News, February 3rd) are very disappointing and fly in the face of claims that the education system supports “parental choice”.

Educate Together has said that this is due to a policy designed to ensure that divested schools do not adversely affect other primary schools.

The fact that it has received instructions to limit intake from the Department of Education in relation to schools in Waterford, Wexford, Meath, Galway and Mayo offers evidence that this is not a “Dublin problem”, as some suggest.

Whose “choice” are we accommodating here? That of parents or patrons?

The Minister for Education has said that the objective is to reach 400 multi- and non-denominational schools by 2030.

Are these going to be schools with half-stream intakes?

Following the divestment process has been like watching a sloth fiddle with a Rubik’s cube in slow motion. And this against a backdrop of the “triple-lock” religious institutions have over our (publicly funded) primary school system.

Over 90 per cent of publicly funded primary schools are under the patronage of Catholic bodies.

They can discriminate against children on religious grounds in their admission policies. Children of non-Catholic parents face the “integrated curriculum”, whereby a religious ethos (including unwanted indoctrination) can permeate the entire school day. Ireland is changing and our religiously controlled primary education system is not fit for purpose in a modern republic.

Perhaps the Department of Education should just come out and suggest that Educate Together be rebranded “Educate Yourselves”, as this seems to be the attitude among some vested interests who suggest that parents who advocate an equality-based education system, free from unwanted indoctrination should do. – Yours, etc,

ROB SADLIER,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – As a parent of a pre-enrolled child in Trim Educate Together National School, Co Meath, I and many like me are outraged at the Department of Education’s decision to not allow these schools to grow, despite high demand.

It is simply unacceptable that in modern Ireland, parents like me, who want their children to attend a school where Catholic faith formation is not a core part of the school day, are being denied that opportunity.

I myself attended a Catholic national school (the only choice available) when I was a child and experienced what it was like to “opt out” of the religious ceremonies that dictate a large part of the school year for communion and confirmation classes.

It is incredible to me that 25 years later, I am now fighting this same fight for my own two children.

The Department of Education has said that its policy is to “ensure that one school is not expanding at the expense of another”.

How can the Government seriously contend that it is committed to divesting the 96 per cent religious patronage of primary schools in Ireland when the Department of Education is operating this policy? It makes no sense.

It is being challenged – not just by me, but by hundreds, indeed thousands of other parents like me around the country who are tired, upset and deeply angry at what is happening. – Yours, etc,

FRANCES HAWORTH,

Trim,

Co Meath.