Mary Hanafin, TD, Minister for Education and Science today announced a new additional model of primary school patronage which would be introduced on a pilot basis in the first instance at a school to be built in Diswellstown, Co Dublin.
"The existing models of patronage have served the education sector well over many decades and will continue as before. However, it can happen in a small number of rapidly developing areas that a traditional patron is not available" Minister Hanafin continued.
The Minister said that she intended that the school in Diswellstown would be community based and that the administrative framework of the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee would be used for the new model. "My Department will now begin a process of consultation with the relevant education partners to explore the detailed implementation measures that will need to be put in place prior to the opening of the new school" said Minister Hanafin. It was intended to have the new school in operation by September, 2008.
In recognition of the changing face of modern Ireland, Minister Hanafin said it was her intention to ensure that the school would cater for the diversity of religious faiths represented in the area served by the school. "Provision will be made within the school setting for the religious, moral and ethical education of children in conformity with the wishes of their parents" Minister Hanafin emphasised.
To reflect the diversity of pupil intake from different parts of the community, the title of the new school will be Diswellstown Community National School.
The Minister also announced that she intended to notify all Vocational Education Committees that, until the consultation process has been completed and the pilot project in Dublin has been evaluated, she does not intend at this stage to recognise VECs as the patrons of any other primary schools.
In conclusion, the Minister emphasised that it was not her intention that the new model of patronage would replace the existing models. "The existing models of school patronage will continue as before. However, the proposed model will be an option available where the specific local circumstances warrant the new approach".
Note for Editors
1. Historical background to patronage system in primary schools
Historically, the church authorities (mainly Catholic and Church of Ireland) acted as patrons or sponsors of primary schools by initiating the process of establishing a new school when one was needed to serve a specific geographic area. These schools are privately-owned, publicly-funded institutions, the denominational character and ethos of which is respected by the State.
There are also nine Model Schools which are State owned and under the patronage of the Minister. These were established in the middle of the 19th century and were originally conducted on a mixed or multi-denominational basis. No model schools have been established in modern times.
In more recent times, other patron bodies such as Educate Together in respect of the multi-denominational sector and An Foras Patrunachta in respect of the Gaelscoileanna have been recognised as the patron bodies for new schools.
2. Role of Patrons
The patron has ultimate responsibility for the school ethos, the appointment of the board of management, financial and legal matters and the supervision of staff appointments in accordance with Department regulations. Patrons generally discharge their responsibilities in close consultation with boards of management and other interested parties involved in the schools.
The current composition of patrons and patron bodies of the 3,279 primary schools is as follows:
Church of Ireland (b)
(a) includes most Gaelscoileanna, a number of special schools and five Model schools where the Minister is Patron
(b) includes four Model schools where the Minister is Patron
(c) includes John Scottus NS, Killashee NS, and three Gaelscoileanna. Balance are multi-denominational schools under Educate Together itself plus some limited companies which are recognised as patrons in their own right (e.g Limerick school Project and Dalkey School Project) and which are members of Educate Together.
(d) includes 4 Gaelscoileanna and a Gaelscoil established in 2005 under joint patronage of local Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops
In addition to the above, there are approximately 20 special schools with various different Patrons, e.g. Enable Ireland and the Health Services Executive.
3. Boards of Management
Boards of Management are accountable to the patron for matters of school ethos and to the Department in relation to the quality of the education provided and the proper discharge of the functions assigned to them in respect of the day-to-day operation of the school.
Boards of Management of primary schools are made up of eight members (one-teacher schools have four members) -
- 2 nominees of the patron,
- 1 Principal Teacher (ex-officio member)
- 1 other teacher serving in the school (elected by serving teachers in the school),
- 2 representatives of parents of pupils attending the school,
- 2 community representatives.
The composition of Boards of Management has been agreed between patrons, recognised school management organisations, trade unions and staff associations representing teachers, national associations of parents and the Minister.
Under current arrangements, the term of office of a Board of Management is four years.