07 March 2017

Make The Case For Real Change In Irish Education

Dear Principal,

As you may be aware, Minister for Education Richard Bruton TD recently announced a new ‘reconfiguration’ process to speed up the transfer of religious-run schools in order to increase the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools available. This is an area of considerable national interest and as you may be questioned on it by parents or other interested parties, we’d like to pass on Educate Together’s viewpoint on the issue – which is also detailed on this campaign website.

While Educate Together is fully in favour of the reconfiguration process, the national office recently released a statement outlining some of the concerns with the plan as it currently stands. But the proposed plan is bad news for many children and their parents:

    •    Undue influence: the plan gives Catholic Bishops the final say in whether they transfer schools, and who they transfer to. This gives the Church continued undue influence on education that is inappropriate in Ireland in the 21st century.

    •    Conflicts of interest: the plan is to be overseen and run by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), who are themselves also applying to run the schools. The ETBs act as patron for Community National Schools (CNS). It is a matter of public record that CNS schools are designed primarily to ensure that Catholic children are prepared for Catholic sacraments at school and are the Church’s preferred alternative model. This won’t bring about real change.

    •    Denial of the rights of parents: The plan leaves families who are campaigning for truly equality-based schools outside the decision-making process. Clearly, the wishes of families are not prioritised – rather they play second fiddle to the preferences of the Church.

Community National Schools are the preferred model of both the Catholic Church and the Minister for Education and Skills. The Church has previously indicated that it favours transferring patronage to CNS schools as they will prepare pupils for sacraments during the school day. Recently the national office has been contacted by members of the Educate Together school community querying the key differences between Educate Together’s equality-based model of education, and the model offered by the ETB-run Community National Schools. Educate Together has produced a position paper on the Community National School model, which is available to read here.

Educate Together has proposed an alternative plan that puts parental wishes where they should be: at the centre of the process. For that to happen, there is a need for reconfiguration process that is Fair, Transparent and Equal – detailed on this campaign website. Here’s what it involves:

    •    fairnessfamilies in the 16 remaining areas still waiting for their Educate Together schools under the previous Government scheme should get them as soon as possible. They’ve waited long enough.

    •    transparency: the Government should appoint an independent advisory group made up of all patron bodies as well as parent groups, rather than just the ETBs and the Church.

    •    equalitythere needs to be a nationwide confidential online survey of parents, run by an impartial state agency. We would then, for the first time, know the true profile of parental demand for schools of different types and the Government could allocate school places and resources fairly.

Educate Together is encouraging anybody who wants real change in Irish education to:

    •    contact the Minister for Education: ask him to change these plans and give the people what they actually want: a Fair, Transparent and Equal reconfiguration plan that will deliver truly equality-based schools all over Ireland. Write an email to the Minister or use a pre-written email template here, which you can personalise as you like.

    •    contact your local TD: tell them that, as their constituent, you want them to bring about a Fair, Transparent and Equal reconfiguration plan that will deliver truly equality-based schools all over Ireland. Write an email to your local TD or use a pre-written email template here, which you can personalise as you like.

    •    raise awareness of the #FairTransparentEqual campaign: keep an eye on Educate Together’s Facebook page and Twitter account – share our content using the hashtag #FairTransparentEqual. Download our digital support pack here to help spread the word.

    •    sign up to a local school campaign: if you live in any of the 16 reconfiguration towns around Ireland, or know anyone that does, go to www.educatetogether.ie/reconfigure-now-2017

The national office is encouraging the Educate Together school community to help change this flawed reconfiguration plan. Let us know what you think: email us [email protected]

Many thanks,

The National Office Team

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