School patronage system

 

A chara, – Carl O’ Brien’s article “Is this the answer to school patronage debate?” (Education, January 19th) is an important contribution to the debate on school patronage and could provide a basis for school governance where the State recognises its obligations as outlined in the O’Keeffe judgment.

The discussion on patronage has been far too focused on the fact that 96 per cent of schools are under the control of religious denominations. There has been little comment on the reality that there are at least 14 bodies acting as patrons of schools in Ireland. The fact that so many patrons are vying for position in schools is worrying.

Diversity of patronage allows for the possibility of a more segregated system rather than a more integrated one. It has the potential to allow parents opt out based on considerations of social class rather than religious considerations.

Replacing one patron with a plethora of disparate patrons is not the solution.

Divesting of patronage by religious denominations need not mean the ending of religious education in schools. The Education and Training Board of Ireland (ETBI) [former VECs], representing the State, should be the sole patron of schools. The detail of how religious education would be delivered can surely be negotiated in the divestment process to reflect “the local . . . and full diversity of the community”, as described by Michael Moriarty of the ETBI.

Having the State as the sole governor of schools would eliminate the duplication of information to schools by numerous bodies, including patrons, their agents, interest groups and the Department of Education and Skills. This duplication often results in confusion, a lack of clarity and is compounded by the spin applied by unions and professional bodies. – Is mise,

SEAN Ó DÍOMASAIGH,

Dunsany,

Co Meath.