13 February, 2015 - Minister O’Sullivan announces four new multi-denominational schools to open following patronage divesting surveys

The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD, has announced that four new multi-denominational primary schools are expected to open this September under the patronage divesting process. Three of these schools will operate under the patronage of Educate Together. The fourth school will be a Gaelscoil operating under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta. 

The three Educate Together schools are intended to be in the following locations:

·        Tuam, Co. Galway

·        New Ross, Co. Wexford

·        Castlebar, Co. Mayo

The Gaelscoil will be located in Birr, Co. Offaly.

Minister O’Sullivan welcomed the progress made to date in discussions with patrons following the divesting surveys. Minister O’Sullivan said: “This development will bring to nine the number of new schools opened under the patronage divesting process. I am particularly pleased that the Catholic Church has been able to offer an actual school building for immediate use by an alternative Patron in the case of Castlebar. The building in question arises on foot of a school closure.”

She continued: “I am conscious of the lead in period necessary for establishing a new school: the advertising of the school, the enrolment process, appointment of the Principal, obtaining planning permission, where required, and other matters and that is why I am giving the go-ahead for all four schools at this time.” 

The establishment of the new schools is part of the process of primary school divestment and follows surveys of parents on patronage choice in some 43 towns. In 28 of these areas, a viable number of parents said they would avail of an alternative patronage model of provision if this was available to them.   

Among the 28 areas, Birr is the only area where parents opted for a Gaelscoil (most of the areas surveyed already had Gaelscoil provision). 

Discussions are continuing to take place with the main Catholic patrons in the areas concerned and in a number of other areas to identify and secure permanent accommodation. The Minister said: “The engagement with patrons is very positive and I thank them for the openness of their approach. I am sure that with the co-operation of all concerned and with the support of my Department, further progress can be achieved for 2016 and beyond.”

The new schools in 2015 will build on progress already made under the patronage divesting process by bringing the total number of new schools opened or to be opened to nine. All nine schools are multi-denominational – eight schools under the patronage of Educate Together and the ninth school under the Patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta.

The process of divestment of primary schools is part of the implementation of recommendations from the 2012 report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.

Minister Sullivan said: “While progress under the patronage divesting process is slower than some people would like it to be, it takes time to build local community support for new provision of school choice. This is time well spent. With the new schools opening in 2015, we are now making real progress on expanding diversity of school provision around the country.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors

·        On foot of the report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector, surveys of parental preferences were undertaken in a number of areas of stable population to establish the level of parental demand for a wider choice in the patronage of primary schools within these areas.

·        Surveys of parental preferences were undertaken on a pilot basis initially in five areas in the Autumn of 2012 and the Department published a report on these in December 2012. Surveys were undertaken in a further 38 areas in January and February 2013. A detailed report on these was published in April of that year.

·        Analysis of the parental preferences expressed in each of the 43 areas surveyed indicated that there is sufficient parental demand supporting immediate changes in school patronage in 28 areas.

·        Following on from publication of the reports, the main patron (Catholic Bishop or Archbishop) in each of these 28 areas was asked to consider re-configuration options that would free up school accommodation for at least one full stream for provision by the first choice alternative Patron.

·        Final reports on the options available were submitted by the existing Patrons, which enabled a targeted focus on areas where there were real possibilities for 2014 and 2015.

·        In 2014, four new schools commenced operation under the patronage of Educate Together. These schools are located in Trim, Co. Meath, Tramore, Co. Waterford, Malahaide/Portmarnock, Co. Dublin and Newtownwhite, County Mayo. The latter resulted from the transfer of patronage from the Church of Ireland. In addition to this, an Educate Together school that opened in September 2013 moved to a former Edmund Rice School building in Dublin 8 in September 2014.

·        The Department will continue to work intensively with the main Catholic Patrons in the other areas to advance alternative Patron choices in those areas for 2016 and beyond.