22 June, 2011 - Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector begins three day public working sessions

The Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector is holding a three day open working session from today, Wednesday 22nd to Friday 24th June, in the Department of Education and Skills in Dublin.   Since the launch of the Forum on 19th of April 2011, some 200 written submissions on the issue of patronage and pluralism in the primary sector have been received. Chairperson of the group, Professor John Coolahan had sought written submission from fourteen main stakeholders, including the Department of Education and Skills, but also invited interested parties to make submissions.These documents are available on the Department’s website, www.education.ie. The Advisory Group, which consists of Prof Coolahan, Dr Caroline Hussey and Fionnuala Kilfeather will now analyse and evaluate all the submissions received, along with examining research and practices on patronage and pluralism in schools in other countries.The purpose of the three day working session is to allow the Advisory Group the opportunity to engage in discussion with the main stakeholders, including officials from the Department of Education and Skills, based on their written submissions.  A limited number of places have been made available to the public to attend the working session, but the proceedings will also be webcast live and available on the Forum’s webpage hosted on the Department’s website. Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn T.D. will attend the opening session from 9-9:30am on Wed 22nd June.  Professor Coolahan said "The key objective of the working session is to allow the Advisory Group to tease out the issues relating to Patronage and Pluralism with the main stakeholders".  He emphasised, "This is just one aspect of the multi-dimensional approach which the Advisory Group has adopted in addressing its terms of reference".  Following its consideration of the submissions and other documentation, the Advisory Group will convene a conference in November to present its provisional findings. The Group will then prepare a report for the Minister with its policy advice for his consideration.  "I hope that this report will provide worthwhile advice and guidance towards practical solutions on diversity in the context of patronage in primary school sector, as the Minister requested when he launched the Forum," concluded Prof Coolahan. ENDS
Note for Editors:The working session will take place from 9am on Wed 22nd until lunchtime on Friday the 24th of June. A copy of the timetable for the three days working session is attached.The thirteen main stakeholders, besides the Department of Education and Skills, involved in the Working Session of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector on 22nd, 23rd and 24th June are as follows:Association of Trustees of Catholic Schools
Catholic Primary Schools Management Association
Educate Together
Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaelige Teoranta
Gaelscoileanna Teoranta
Irish National Teachers' Organisation
Irish Primary Principals' Network
Irish Vocational Education Association
National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education
National Parents Council – Primary
The Board of Education of the Church of Ireland
The Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference
The Islamic Foundation of IrelandThe terms of reference of the Forum are to advise the Minister on: 1. How it can best be ensured that the education system can provide a sufficiently diverse number and range of primary schools catering for all religions and  none;
2. The practicalities of how transfer/divesting of patronage should operate for individual primary schools in communities where it is appropriate and  necessary;
3. How such transfer/divesting can be advanced to ensure that demands for diversity of patronage (including from an Irish language perspective) can be identified and met on a widespread basis nationally. In undertaking this work the Forum will, in particular, have regard for the following: The expressed willingness of the Catholic Church to consider divesting patronage of primary schools
The current financial constraints within which the State is operating, the need for continued restraint into the future and the requirement in this context   to make maximum use of existing school infrastructure in catering for future demands.