School patronage and divestment

 

Sir, – The “survey” process on school patronage in Malahide and Portmarnock as described by David McAlinden does indeed seem deeply flawed (Letters, April 4th). It appears to be a take it or leave it choice, with no information on the alternatives available.

There is also some serious disinformation being circulated in the area by people who should know better. Suggestions that grandparents are not welcome in non-religious schools or that Christmas plays will not be allowed or that children will not be able to make their first communions are nonsense. I can assure other grandparents that I have been made very welcome at my grandchildren’s multidenominational school. I have attended the Christmas play performed by the children, which illustrates the values of kindness, respect and care for the community. These values are not exclusive to Catholic schools. I also attended my grandson’s first communion two years ago and next month will attend my grand-daughter’s – all arranged by the parents in the school who want first communion for their children.

A comprehensive and rational report was published by the Department of Education in 2013 which covers 38 urban and rural areas, including Portmarnock and Malahide. In Portmarnock, the survey found: “With regard to the issue of a wider choice of patronage in the area 208 of the 688 preferences stated that they would welcome a wider choice of patronage while 144 stated that they would avail of that choice.” The overwhelming choice of alternative patron was Educate Together. In Malahide the outcome was similar. “With regard to the issue of a wider choice of patronage in the area 415 of the 1,287 preferences stated that they would welcome a wider choice of patronage while 268 stated that they would avail of that choice.”

Again, the overwhelming choice of alternative patron was Educate Together. For both areas, the report concludes, “Given the number of respondents who have stated they would avail of a further choice of patron it is clear that there is a viable demand for change in the area”, and “the main patron (Catholic Archbishop) should now be asked to consider re-configuration options that would provide accommodation for an Educate Together (English language multidenominational school) in the area. Taking account of likely long-term requirements, accommodation options for a full stream of provision should be considered. Given the proximity of Malahide and Portmarnock these two areas could be examined together to provide a divesting solution that would cater for demand in both of them.”

Instead of the current approach by the archdiocese, it is time now for the department and the archdiocese to get together and assess the demand for alternative patronage in a rational manner.

Those parents in Portmarnock and Malahide who want alternative patronage pay their full share of the education bill and are entitled to the education they want for their children. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY O’LEARY,

Portmarnock,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Parents are the primary educators of their children. Teachers and parents are right to express concern at hasty divestment.

They, their children and future generations have to live with the consequences. It is not misleading or irresponsible to point out that divestment to secular patronage will result in a secular board of management who not unreasonably will prefer to appoint and promote teachers who hold secular views.

It is not alarmist to point out that such a secular school would not celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ or Easter. Why should it? Nor is it far-fetched to say that “Dia dhuit” will not be taught in a school where teachers do not believe in God. Parents need to know what exactly they are voting for. – Yours, etc,

ANN KEHOE,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Department of Education officials are disingenuous in their assertion that a change of patronage will not prevent existing Catholic schools from celebrating religious events such as Christmas. These same officials have no right to accuse Catholic staff of scaremongering when they explain the essential differences between multidenominational and Catholic education.

Having served as school principal in both multidenominational and Catholic schools it is clear to me that the Department of Education fails to understand the living reality of Catholic education and the difference between observing from a distance what others are doing and taking an active part in a religious event. There is a massive difference between describing prayer and the actual act of praying.

There is a big difference between providing a new multidenominational school and closing an existing Catholic school. – Yours, etc,

ALAN WHELAN,

Killarney,

Co Kerry.