12 December, 2012- Pilot surveys on parental patronage preferences show demand for diversity

Minister for Education publishes Report on the surveys of parental preferences on primary school patronage in five pilot areas

Surveys undertaken in five pilot areas on primary school patronage show that there is parental demand for a greater choice of patron in each town. 

The surveys were conducted in Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore, Trim and Whitehall as part of the Minister for Education & Skills’ response to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary sector.  These five areas were chosen to pilot the survey before it is extended to the balance of 44 towns identified following the Forum Report. 

The surveys show that in the five areas Educate Together has emerged as the first choice of alternative patron.  Each of the five towns already has an existing Gaelscoil, which is capable of accommodating the demand expressed for Irish language medium schools.

Publishing the Department’s report on the five surveys to the New Schools Establishment Group, the body tasked with verifying the information, Minister Ruairí Quinn T.D. said, “Parents have been given a voice through this survey process to express a preference for the types of schools they want to send their children to.  While many are happy with the schools already available in their area, there is a clear demand from others for greater choice.”

“I will now ask the main patron in each area, the Catholic Bishop or Archbishop, to consider the re-configuration options open to him which would allow sufficient school accommodation to be made available to facilitate this choice.” 

The Minister is requesting each of the patrons to consult with their local school communities. The Department is requesting an interim response in three months and a final response in six months. 

Minister Quinn has also announced that the survey will be rolled out to further areas in early January.  “Parents from the other towns identified following the Forum Report on Patronage will be able to express their views on the choice of primary schools in their towns via the survey from the 9th of January for one month.”

The report published today outlines in detail the result of the surveys carried out over three weeks, beginning in late October.  Parents of pre-school and primary school going children were asked to take part in a survey, with almost 99% doing so on-line, to determine if there is demand for a wider choice of patron in their locality.

The aim of the survey was to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice of patronage in primary schools in the areas.  Each town has a relatively stable population and therefore little prospect of a new school opening there in coming years.  A total of 1,788 valid survey responses were received.  These represented 3,459 children in the five areas.    

The number of parents who supported a wider choice of patron ranged from 37% to 50% of respondents in the five areas.  The percentage of parents who said they would send their children to an alternative school patron if available ranged from 25% to 35%.  While those who did not want to see more choice ranged from 35% to 44% of respondents. 

On their preference for English or Irish medium schools, 70% to almost 80% of respondents chose English medium schools, while the preference for Irish medium instruction ranged from almost 10% to 21%. 

Of those parents seeking wider choice of patron, Educate Together was the first preference of 56% to 76% of parents, An Forás Patrúnachta was first choice for between 6% to 26% of parents and the VECs ranged from 10% to 18%. 

Minister Quinn concluded by thanking all the primary school patron bodies and the education partners for their co-operation to date with the surveys and said that he looked forward to the continued positive engagement of all parties so that diversity of choice can become a reality across the country.


Click here to view the report on the pilot surveys.