Diversity of Patronage

Survey is Closed

What is this all about?

While the State provides for free primary education, schools are established by patron bodies who define the ethos of the school and appoint the board of management to run the school on a day to day basis. 

The vast majority (96%) of primary schools in Ireland are owned and under the patronage of religious denominations and approximately 90% of these schools are owned and under the patronage of the Catholic Church. 

We all know that Irish Society has changed a lot in recent years.  There are now families of many different nationalities, religions and beliefs living here.  Our education system therefore needs to adapt to ensure that there is respect for all the different traditions and religions from which pupils come.

Forum on Primary Patronage

In 2011, the Minister for Education and Skills established an expert group to consult with people and to make recommendations on how primary schools can become more inclusive of different traditions, religions and beliefs.  

In April 2012 the Minister for Education & Skills, Ruairí Quinn, T.D. accepted and published the Report of the Advisory Group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.

In June 2012 as part of his response to the recommendations of that report, the Minister started a new process to look at the possible transfer of some schools run by the Catholic Church to other school patron bodies in 44 areas * around the country.  This process was undertaken initially on a pilot basis in the following areas: Arklow, Castlebar, Whitehall (including Kilmore West and Beaumont), Trim and Tramore.  The Report to New Schools Establishment Group on the pilot surveys regarding parental preferences on primary school patronage was published in December 2012

Surveys are now being carried out in the remaining areas. [Click here for list of areas]

*Please note that Kildare Town has been removed from the original list of areas to be surveyed following consultation with patron bodies.

How will this happen?

The next step in this process involves asking all the parents/guardians of all children aged 0 to 12 years old in these areas to tell us what type of primary school they would like their children to attend. The intention is to identify the level of demand from parents/guardians for a wider choice of school type in areas where that choice is currently limited.  The responses of parents/guardians will be used to consider what changes, if any, could be made to widen the choice of primary schools in these areas.

Who is eligible to complete the survey?

Parents/guardians of all children aged 0 to 12 years in the areas being surveyed.  Your preference will only be considered in the area in which you live.

Types of Patronage

The Department of Education and Skills currently classifies primary schools as denominational, inter-denominational and multi-denominational offering education through the medium of English or Irish.

Denominational patronage: A school under the patronage of a single religious community.  Such a school provides religious education according to traditions, practices and beliefs of the specified religious community.  It may also provide a wider education about religion and facilitate parents/guardians of other faith traditions to enable them to provide for religious education in their belief system.

Inter-denominational patronage: A school under the patronage or trusteeship of more than one religious faith community.  Such a school provides for a variety of religious education opportunities.

Multi-denominational patronage: In the Irish context, two types of primary schools are categorised as multi-denominational:

  • Firstly, those schools that do not provide religious education as formation, during the school day, but do provide education about religions and beliefs.  If they so desire, parents/guardians may arrange for denominational religious education outside school hours in such schools.
  • Secondly, those schools that provide education about religions and also provide some faith formation for different denominations, depending on parental requests, during the school day, over a 3 or 4 week period.

Description of Patronage

The Department circulated the list of the areas to all patrons and asked them to supply a list of the areas where they are interested in becoming a patron.  The Department has also asked them to supply a brief description of their patronage model. Only those patrons who have expressed an interest in becoming a patron in one of the areas are listed in the survey.

For further information on patron providers, click here.

What happens next?

The Department of Education & Skills will publish detailed reports on the survey outcomes.  This will be done in a manner that fully respects the confidentiality and data protection rights of all those who respond. Please see data protection protocol.

The survey outcomes will allow us to identify the level of parental demand for a wider diversity of school choice in the selected areas.  Where such demand is identified, the options for a possible transfer of ownership of some schools will be considered further in partnership with the patrons and school communities concerned.

This process will not result in the establishment of additional schools in the areas.