Inclusion in Educate Together schools

 

Sir, – In her letter of March 21st, Dr Marie Griffin, chief executive of Ceist, the Catholic Education Irish Schools’ Trust, cites a 2012 ESRI longitudinal study that draws from data sets taken almost a decade ago, in 2007/08. The intervening years have seen a transformation in Irish society, culturally, economically and socially.

Dr Griffin states that Catholic schools had a significantly higher number of children with learning difficulties, disabilities and Traveller children. What she fails to point out is that Catholic schools have a near-monopoly in Irish education, with more than 93 per cent ownership of all primary schools. By any logic, the patron with the largest number of schools would have to serve this population.

Educate Together operates some of the most diverse schools in the country. A quarter of all Educate Together schools are either in or qualify for the Government’s Deis programme for schools in disadvantaged areas. A third of Educate Together’s schools operate integrated facilities for children with autism, the highest percentage of any Irish provider. Not only do Traveller children attend Educate Together schools, Educate Together schools have been involved with the Irish Traveller Movement’s Yellow Flag inclusion and diversity award since its inception. From small rural schools to large schools in new housing areas, Educate Together schools accommodate a very wide social demographic.

Having touched on these well-worn but utterly disproved stereotypes, Dr Griffin poses the question, “is anyone campaigning for an end to this selection barrier in multi-denominational schools?” Here, Dr Griffin fails to note that Catholic-run schools can and do prioritise in admissions on the basis of a child’s religion when oversubscribed. No Educate Together school will ever do this.

All children are welcome in Educate Together schools. An ever growing number of families of all faiths and philosophical backgrounds, including those of devout Catholic faith, choose these equality-based schools because they feel this model of education best prepares their children for today’s diverse, globalised world. – Yours, etc,

PAUL ROWE,

Chief Executive Officer,

Educate Together,

Equity House,

Upper Ormond Quay,

Dublin 7.