PARENTS of primary school children in Castlebar will be amongst the first group of parents in the country to give their views on what patrons they would like to see running their local primary schools.
The move is the first step in a process which could see the Catholic Church divested of the control of schools in 44 areas around the country.
From yesterday (Monday), Castlebar was among five towns listed to take part in a Department of Education pilot scheme to be surveyed first on school patronage. The other areas taking part in this survey are Arklow, Tramore, Trim and Whitehall. Parents of pre-school and primary school children in Castlebar will be asked to complete surveys stating their preferences for the type of school they would like their children to attend.
Parents will be asked their views on single-sex schools, Irish-language-medium schools and other patronage models. Currently, 93 per cent of the State’s 3,200 primary schools are under Catholic patronage.
The existing patrons within the five pilot areas are An Foras Pátrúnachta (gaelscoileanna) and bishops from the Catholic Church and the Church of Ireland. The bodies that 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.
Earlier this year, the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector made recommendations to the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD on the divesting of patronage where there is a stable population and a demand for diversity of school types.
Following on from these recommendations, the Minister will examine the possibility of transferring some schools to other patron bodies around the country. The intention is to find out if parents would prefer a wider choice of school patron than is currently available to them.
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