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surveying parents

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 22, 2012

SEÁN FLYNN, Education Editor and DAN GRIFFIN

The Department of Education will today begin surveying parents to establish which patrons they wish to see operating primary schools.

Today’s move is the first step in a process in which schools in 44 areas could be divested from control of the Catholic Church.

The initiative follows an advisory group report earlier this year recommending the divesting of patronage where there is a stable population and demand for diversity of school types.

The Department will initially survey parents of pre-school and primary school children in five areas, Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore, Trim and Whilehall, before next month extending the survey to a further 39 areas around the State.

The survey will be “confined to parents living in the area, parents of pre-school children and parents of children who are in the primary school sector”, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said.

A code of conduct will be in place during the survey period. This has been worked out in consultation with the patron bodies and it will limit excessive spending by any one side. The code is designed to ensure the surveys are conducted in a reasonable manner without conflict.

Parents’ views will be canvassed on single-sex schools, Irish language-medium schools, and other patronage models. Currently 93 per cent of the State’s 3,200 primary schools fall under Catholic patronage.

The existing patrons within the five pilot areas are An Foras Pátrúnachta and bishops from the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. The bodies which have expressed interest in becoming patrons of divested schools in the five areas are An Foras Pátrúnachta Educate Together, VECs, the National Learning Network, and the Redeemed Christian Church of God.

“What we’re trying to d is take a historical legacy, to respect the voyage of young people through the educational process and not disrupt that voyage and at the same time provide for a diversity of choice for parents,” Mr Quinn told RTÉ today.

He said demand for Gaelscoileanna or non-denominational schools could be facilitated in areas of high population density while a Cathloic presence was maintained.

The survey is available at and all eligible parents or guardians are asked to complete it on-line by 9th November. Parents or guardians are advised to have their PPS number to hand when accessing the on-line survey as this will be requested for validation purposes.

A free helpline is available in the Department for anyone who has any difficulties in completing the survey: 1800 303621.The helpline will be open from 9.30 to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

If parents cannot access the online survey, a paper based version can be requested by ringing the freephone number 1800 303621.

Educate Together later described the survey as “a milestone in providing for diversity in Irish education”.

Chief executive Paul Rowe said it marked “another big step towards addressing the historical issue of imbalance in diversity of school type in the Irish education system”.


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