Why is making the case for real change in Irish Education important?
In January 2017, the Government proposed a new 'reconfiguration' process to speed up the transfer of religious-run schools in order to increase the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools available. The overall aim of this plan is to create more diversity and inclusiveness in the primary school system in response to parental demand. (You can read background information on reconfiguration and school patronage in Ireland here).
But the proposed plan is bad news for many children and their parents.
- Undue influence: the plan gives Catholic Bishops the final say in whether they transfer schools, and who they transfer to. This gives the Church continued undue influence on education that is inappropriate for Ireland in the 21st century.
- Conflicts of interest: the plan is to be overseen and run by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs), who are themselves also applying to run the schools. The ETBs act as patron for Community National Schools (CNS). It is a matter of public record that CNS schools are designed primarily to ensure that Catholic children are prepared for Catholic sacraments at school and are the Church’s preferred alternative model. This won't bring about real change.
- Denial of the rights of parents: The plan leaves families who are campaigning for truly equality-based schools outside the decision making process. Clearly, the wishes of families are not prioritised - rather they play second fiddle to the preferences of the Church.
That doesn't sound like real change?
It isn't. As one commentator recently wrote, it’s difficult to envisage proposals more tailored to the requirements of the Church as opposed to wider society in general and parents in particular. This process must be changed to ensure that these rights are centre stage. If they are not, there will be no lasting solution to this problem.
what does a Fair, Transparent and Equal Reconfiguration plan look like?
Educate Together's alternative reconfiguration plan puts parental wishes where they should be: at the centre of the process. Here's what it involves:
fairness: families in the 16 remaining areas still waiting for their Educate Together schools under the previous Government scheme should get them as soon as possible. They've waited long enough.
- transparency: the Government should appoint an independent advisory group made up of all patron bodies as well as parent groups, rather than just the ETBs and the Church.
equality: there needs to be a confidential online survey of the parents of children at school and pre-schools, run by an impartial state agency. We would then, for the first time, know the true profile of parental demand for schools of different types and the Government could allocate school places and resources fairly.
what can I do?
Educate Together is encouraging anybody who wants real change in Irish education to:
- contact the Minister for Education: ask him to change these plans and give the people what they actually want: a Fair, Transparent and Equal reconfiguration plan that will deliver truly equality-based schools all over Ireland. Write an a personal email to the Minister or use a pre-written email template here, which you can personalise as you like. Let us know what response you get - email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
- contact your local TD: tell them that, as their constituent, you want them to bring about a Fair, Transparent and Equal reconfiguration plan that will deliver truly equality-based schools all over Ireland. Write an a personal email to your local TD or use a pre-written email template here, which you can personalise as you like. Let us know what response you get - email us: email@example.com
- raise awareness of the #FairTransparentEqual campaign: keep an eye on Educate Together’s Facebook page and Twitter account - share our content using the hashtag #FairTransparentEqual. Download our digital support pack here to help spread the word.
- sign up to a local school campaign: if you live in any of the 16 reconfiguration towns around Ireland, or know anyone that does, go to www.educatetogether.ie/reconfigure-now-2017
- let us know what you think: email us: firstname.lastname@example.org