Parents in Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore, Trim and Whitehall first to be surveyed in pilot scheme.
In a new initiative, parents in a number of selected areas are being asked what patrons they would like to see running their local primary schools.
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 T.D. 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 has commenced a new process to examine the possibility of transferring some schools to other patron bodies in 44 areas around the country.
Starting today, parents of pre-school and primary school children in five initial areas are being surveyed. The areas are Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore, Trim and Whitehall (including Kilmore West and Beaumont) in Dublin.
A code of conduct has been worked out in consultation with the patron bodies which will limit expenditure on the provision of information. The code is designed to ensure the surveys are conducted in a reasonable manner, avoiding contentious commentary.
Launching the initiative, Minister Quinn said, “For many parents this will be the first time they will have a real say in the type of primary school they want their children to go to, whether it is denominational, multi-denominational, all-Irish or another kind.”
“Modern Ireland is hugely diverse and we have to be sure that our schools cater for this diversity. Whilst we owe a debt to religious bodies for their contribution to education, there is now the potential for change within the primary patronage system to better reflect our society.”
Parents of pre-school and primary school children in these locations will be asked to complete surveys stating their preferences for the type of school they would like their children to attend.
The intention is to find out if parents would prefer a wider choice of school patron than is currently available to them. The responses of parents will be used to decide what changes, if any, should be made to widen the availability of other types of primary school in these locations.
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.
Minister Quinn continued, “I am urging all eligible parents to make sure that their voices are heard by taking part in these surveys. This is a historic opportunity for parents to re-shape the primary school landscape for generations to come.”
“After the piloting of the survey in the first five areas, we will be rolling it out to the balance of the 44 areas next month.”
The survey process will be overseen by the independent New Schools Establishment Group. The Department will publish detailed reports on the survey outcomes.
If the surveys identify demand for alternative patronage in these areas, the Department will explore with the existing patrons the transfer of patronage of schools.
The survey is available at: www.education.ie 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.
Updated list of areas to be included in initial phase of surveys
- Ballyfermot/ Chapelizod/ Palmerstown/ Cherry Orchard
- Dublin 6
- Kells (Ceanannas)
- New Ross
- Passage West
- Whitehall (including Kilmore West and Beaumont)
Please note this area replaces Dublin 4 from the original list of 44 areas, as a new primary school will open in coming years which will provide diversity in the Dublin 4 area