School enrolment restrictions
Sir, – The outcry against enrolment restrictions placed on developing Educate Together schools in five towns around Ireland is both welcome – to parents seeking appropriate school places for their children – and justified. Official responses to these schools to date speak of protecting “existing schools” (the religious ones), and position parents seeking an alternative to religious schools as simply seeking to exercise “choice”.
This seriously undermines the experiences of families with minority or non-religious backgrounds faced with no alternative but to enrol their children in Catholic schools. While most schools make every effort to accommodate children of other faiths and none, within the limits of their denominational structures, research – including that undertaken by the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism – illustrates how in reality children from minority faith, humanist or atheist backgrounds can feel left out and excluded in such schools. Article 42 of our Constitution states: “The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State.”
On moral and legal grounds, therefore, these restrictions need to be lifted with immediate effect, and buildings provided to allow these schools to cater for the growing demand that exists for this inclusive school model. – Yours, etc,
Dr EMER NOWLAN,