School patronage

 

Sir, – Seán Ó Díomasaigh is right when he says the State should take more responsibility for education, and that Education and Training Boards (ETBs) can play an important role (August 31st) . However, the “iceberg” he suggests no-one is paying attention to is not patronage itself; after all, the ETBs themselves are also patrons. Rather it is the continuing influence of one dominant religious patron on State policy and State schools.

Educate Together has been advocating greater involvement of ETBs in primary education for many years. It initiated talks over 10 years ago which might have led to the establishment of equality-based State primary schools, had it not been for the intervention of Roman Catholic bishops.

Instead, ETBs are required to provide “community national schools”, State-run primary schools where children are segregated according to their religious backgrounds. Unsurprisingly, this model has not proved popular. In the three areas where new primary schools were announced for 2016, only 70 children were registered for community national schools, compared to 1,173 children for Educate Together schools.

At second-level, Educate Together has developed effective partnerships with a number of ETBs in recent years. In four new schools in Dublin, Kildare and Louth, Educate Together’s Ethical Education curriculum is being taught, and this State-supported, equality-based model is proving popular with parents, students and teachers.

A similar joint-patronage approach at primary level could resolve many issues. – Yours, etc,

Dr EMER NOWLAN,

Chief Operating Officer,

Educate Together,

Equity House,

Upper Ormond Quay,

Dublin 7.