Schools and unbaptised pupils

 

A chara, – It’s laughable. “Minister calls for places for unbaptised pupils” (Front Page, December 28th). Change it to “Minister calls for places for pupils”, and we see the problem. It’s a Minister for Education who calls for places and yet does not provide them! If a school is oversubscribed, there’s a reason. What the Minister calls for will displace the bulge to another location.

Will the Minister introduce legislation that will require an oversubscribed Gaelscoil to exclude Irish-speaking pupils? Or require a Muslim national school to set aside places for non-Muslim pupils on the basis of proximity to the school rather than their religion?

It’s the Minister’s job to provide sufficient appropriate places. Let her not avoid her responsibility by transferring the dirty work to schools already at maximum capacity so that the Department of Education can wash its hands. Addressing this would provide a much better election objective. – Is mise,

PÁDRAIG McCARTHY

Sandyford,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Someone please remind Jan O Sullivan that she is still a Minister and a member of a Government that has the power to introduce new laws whenever it wants to do so. – Yours, etc,

NOEL SHANAGHY,

Faithlegg,

Co Waterford.

Sir, – While all are agreed that something has to be done to ensure that the State provides sufficient school places to meet the education needs of families, there seems to be little radical thinking as to how this might be achieved.

We need to move the debate on from that of school diversification to that of effective parental power. If Ireland were to follow the English school funding model, we would liberate the whole system and give massive power to parental choice.

The English funding system works something like the voucher system proposed by Cardinal Bourne of Westminster almost a century ago.

Each young person is allocated a sum of money, let us say €6,000, and is free to use that money to receive education in any recognised public-sector school.

As a school principal, it ensured that I treated every parent and every child as an equally valued customer who was free to take their business elsewhere. In my last school, we more than doubled our annual intake from 80 to 180 students and, if we wished, such was the demand for places, we could have expanded still further. The funding model contained a capital element that allowed for the possibility of school expansion. I argued this in my submission to the Forum on Patronage but heard no more about it. Its adoption would have freed up the debate about diversification, etc, and in a progressive way would have respected parents’ views.

One thing that my own considerable practical experience tells me is that Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan has received duff legal advice in her contention that school ethos can be preserved with anything near as close as 49 per cent of consumers not subscribing to the stated ethos. – Yours, etc,

ALAN WHELAN,

Killarney,

Co Kerry.

Sir, – It strikes as quite odd for our Minister for Education to have to “call for new laws to ensure denominational education schools set aside places for local children who are not baptised”. Is sounds as if she is at the sidelines of political life with such a call.

Has she not both the power and responsibility as a Minister to bring about such a change in the laws, instead of waiting just before an election to call for such a change? – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN BUTLER,

Malahide,

Co Dublin.