42 New Schools Announced!

Educate Together welcomes the recent Government announcement (April 2018) that 42 new schools are to be sanctioned in the next four years - 16 second-level schools and 26 primary schools.  In the coming months, patronage  will be decided on 13 primary schools and four second-level school to open in 2019, listed below. 

Educate Together is looking forward to participating in the upcoming determination process for awarding patronage for these schools. Demand for Educate Together’s unique equality-based model of education has sky-rocketed all over Ireland in the last decade, in towns, cities and rural areas alike. 

Primary schools are due to open in 2019 in:


  • Booterstown/Blackrock
  • Donaghmede-Howth, Dublin 13
  • Drumcondra/Marino, Dublin 1
  • Dublin 6 (Clonskeagh) and Dublin 6W
  • Goatstown Stillorgan
  • Killester/Raheny/Clontarf
  • Swords South
  • Swords North


  • Glassheen/Pouladuff


  • Leixlip
  • Maynooth


  • Kilcoole


  • Dunshaughlin

Second-level schools are due to open in 2019 in: 

  • Dubiln: Donaghmede-Howth/Dublin 13/Belmayne/Clongriffin
  • Wicklow: Wicklow
  • Meath/Louth: Laytown & Drogheda
  • Galway: Galway City and Oranmore

Full details are on the DES website here.

DES Demands Educate Together Schools Downsize and Turn Away Families - in Breach of Department’s Own Recommendations and Policies

Educate Together has raised serious concerns with the Department of Education and Skills (DES) in relation to the restriction of pupil intake of equality-based Educate Together national schools opened between 2014 and 2016 under the Government’s school patronage divestment process. 

Recently received correspondence from the DES to Tramore ETNS, New Ross ETNS and Trim ETNS stated that they must each adhere strictly to a ½ stream intake of 13 junior infants for the 2018/19 school year. Similar information was communicated to Tuam ETNS and Castlebar ETNS earlier in 2017. This correspondence requires the schools to now limit their enrolment of Junior Infant students in September 2018 to 13 pupils, requiring them to turn away families who wish to avail of an equality-based education for their children.

This recent correspondence outlines a new policy of the patronage divesting process as ‘enabling diversity of provision in an area where there is no demographic imperative to establish a school, however, the intention is that the establishment of a divested school does not adversely affect existing primary schools in the area.’ Educate Together considers that this directly contradicts the policy in which the schools opened, (which originated through the Forum of Patronage and Pluralism), which sought to identify areas where schools should be transferred through amalgamation and closures. 

Educate Together agreed to open these schools on the basis of their long-term viability as full stream developing schools. In the case of each school the Forum of Patronage and Pluralism reports (see attached) recommended that "Taking account of likely long-term requirements, accommodation options for a full stream of provision should be considered.”

All five of these Educate Together schools have gone from strength to strength over the past number of years, and the majority have demonstrated pre-enrolment numbers for 2018/19 to accommodate a full stream. These school communities have expressed shock and deep frustrations at the prescribed barriers to further development being applied by the DES. These schools are now effectively being told to turn away large numbers of families who will not now be able to access the equality-based education they had hoped for their children. 

The five Educate Together national schools opened between 2014 and 2016 under the Government’s school patronage divestment process, with the stated aim to provide more choice and diversity in the Irish primary school system. The effect of this policy decision shines a light on the State’s ability to address the serious violation of rights of children and parents in Ireland, and it’s commitment to increase the number of non-denominational and multi-denominational schools in Ireland to 400 by the year 2030. 

The DES is now retrospectively seeking to change the basis upon which Educate Together agreed to proceed on - and to impose a restriction that violates the lawful preference of a significant numbers families in these areas. Educate Together has written to the DES asking for clarification on what statutory or constitutional basis the Department is now retrospectively proposing these changes. 

Educate Together awaits a response from the Department of Education.

Educate Together on the Two Mile National School announcement: parents in Killarney have been let down

Educate Together has expressed disappointment and concern at the announcement today of the transfer of a Catholic school to Kerry ETB to re-open as a Community National School.

When the Government’s school reconfiguration plans were announced by Minister Bruton in January 2017, Educate Together raised concerns that they gave undue influence to the Catholic Church and left families who are campaigning for equality-based schools with no real voice in the process. Educate Together put these concerns to Department of Education officials directly at a meeting on 5th April 2017, published them online (www.educatetogether.net) and issued press statements outlining the case. Today’s announcement on the transfer of a Catholic school to Kerry ETB to re-open as a Community National School vindicates Educate Together’s concerns.

Following parental surveys in 2013, Killarney was one of 25 areas around Ireland where parents were promised an Educate Together national school by the Government under the ‘divestment’ plan - a process devised to bring about more diversity and inclusiveness in the primary school system. Educate Together has been engaging with parents in the Killarney area for four years with a view to establishing an Educate Together school in the town. In 2017, interest levels among parents for an Educate Together school remain high. Educate Together has also actively engaged with the Department of Education to establish a school in Killarney, having proposed various viable school accommodation options for the Department to investigate. Indeed, when it became aware that the school in Two Mile was closing, Educate Together suggested the very school building, in October 2016 and again in March 2017. Instead, the Department is now sanctioning a Community National School. 

Educate Together expressed concerns earlier this year that the Government’s reconfiguration plan lacked high standards of transparency and equality in that all stakeholders were not fairly represented or consulted in the process. These concerns have now been validated. Today the Department stated that a local meeting was held in March organised by the “Two Mile Community Group". The meeting was attended by over 70 members of the local community and an ‘independent vote’ was held to allow Two Mile / Cahooreigh NS to be made available as a Community National School. The transfer was signed off by Ray Browne, Bishop of Kerry - representing the Diocese of Kerry, the current patron of the school.

  • At no point were parents seeking an Educate Together school in the area consulted.
  • At no point was Educate Together asked to express an interest in becoming patron of the school. 
  • At no point was Educate Together invited by the Department of Education to make a case for a prospective Educate Together patronage to the local community.

Educate Together - and others - expressed concerns that the reconfiguration plan gave the Catholic Church undue influence on education. This is because current patrons - mostly Catholic bishops -have the final say in whether schools are transferred - and, crucially, to whom. Today we are seeing the transfer of a Catholic school to the Kerry ETB to re-open under the ETB’s patronage as a Community National School. This is despite parents clearly expressing a preference for an Educate Together school when objectively surveyed by the DES in 2012. 

Commenting on the announcement, Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe said: 

“Today’s announcement is disappointing for parents in Killarney, who have been let down. It is also of serious concern to all of us who who have been working towards real reform and reconfiguration of the primary school system over many years. What is needed now is a complete review of the Minister’s proposed process for reconfiguration. The state needs to take control of this process so that the needs of local communities - not Bishops or religious orders - are central and so that real change can happen nationwide.”

Educate Together is now calling for a full reassessment of Richard Bruton’s ‘reconfiguration’ process and that a new process be formulated that considers the wishes of families, rather than Church interests. Educate Together’s detailed proposals can be read online: www.educatetogether.net

Educate Together Challenges Flawed Reconfiguration Plan; Demands Transparency, Fairness and Equality

Educate Together, having considered Minister Bruton’s announcement to speed up the reconfiguration of religious-run schools to other patrons, is today challenging the process as both unfair and unworkable in its current form. Educate Together is proposing an alternative plan that will put parental wishes where they should be: at the centre of the process.  

Educate Together challenges the process on the following grounds: 

1) The proposed plan is not a fair or transparent one as the state agencies charged with running the selection process - the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) - also have a vested direct interest in the process in that they they are patrons of Community National Schools (CNS) and have clear and stated ambitions to grow that number.

2) Community National Schools are the preferred model of the Catholic Church and the Education Minister. The Church has previously indicated that it favours divesting to this model, as CNS schools will still prepare pupils for sacraments during the school day. Minister Richard Bruton TD also recently endorsed the school model, stating that “the philosophy of the Community National School as a multi-denominational school is based on international best practice in this area”. Educate Together has asked upon which international evidence such a statement can be made.

3) The proposed plan seems to be designed to facilitate the handover of religious-schools to ETB-run schools in return for payment. It proposes a role for existing patrons or the trusts or individuals behind them who are the original landowners in deciding which patron would take over the running of a school. This gives these bodies a disproportionate influence over the process and is a denial of the fundamental democratic rights of parents.

4) The proposed plan does not prioritise the wishes of parents of pre-school children nor parents of children in existing schools in deciding the reassignment of schools. Rather it prioritises the wishes of the Church and the ETBs. The wishes of parents must be central to any approach to addressing the need for change. 

5) Educate Together, which has nearly 40 years’ experience in providing equality-based education throughout Ireland and specific expertise in transferring school patronage, was not consulted on the current proposal.

6) Educate Together now has thousands of parents seeking places in its equality-based schools. It currently has no mechanism whereby this demand can be met in established areas of the country. The proposed mechanism does not provide a realistic or credible route for us to satisfy this demand.

An alternative plan

Educate Together has proposed a systemic solution to the needs for diversity in the Irish education system. This involves the State contacting the parents of all 3 year old children and seeking their first second and third preference for primary school. This could be achieved by a confidential online process aligned with the child benefit data. The Statewould then, for the first time in its history, know the true profile of parental demand for schools of different types and could then allocate places and resources accordingly.

Until such a system is in place, solutions to the long-standing human rights deficits in the structure of the Irish education system will not be achievable.

Educate Together also calls for immediate progress on the remaining 17 areas that have been allocated for new Educate Together schools since 2013 under the previous divestment process. 

In the interests of the many thousands of parents campaigning for alternatives to existing school provision, Educate Together challenging the process as outlined by the Minister today and demands a process that is transparent, fair and modelled to provide true equality.

Educate Together 'Anxious' To Examine Minister Bruton's Proposals

Educate Together notes today’s newspaper reports on the Minister for Education Richard Bruton’s plans for advancing the divestment process and welcomes any practical and effective steps taken to address the human rights deficit in the Irish education system.

However, Educate Together would like to state that it has not been asked by the Department of Education to have any input into the formulation of the process announced this morning. As such, Educate Together is keen is to examine the proposals in detail.

Commenting on the announcement, Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe stated:

'Educate Together is concerned that the new process suggests that a candidate body has been charged with running the selection process and there appears to be no robust process whereby the wishes of parents define the choice of school. The wishes of parents must be central to any new approach to addressing the need for change - their wishes cannot be ignored or sidelined.’

Educate Together is disappointed that the Minister for Education has decided to announce such a process without proper discussion with the main providers of multi-denominational and non denominational education and appears to be adopting an approach that allows the State provider - the ETBs - and the Catholic Church disproportionate influence over the process and any changes that it recommends.

Educate Together calls on the Minister to provide real and concrete support to its efforts to meet the demands of thousands of parents who wish their children to secure places in an equality-based Educate Together school.

In this regard, we call on him to facilitate Educate Together opening schools in the 16 remaining areas already allocated for Educate Together schools in the 2012/13 survey process and to enter into discussions to implement a national survey of all parents of pre-school children to ascertain the true level of parental preferences in all parts of the country.

Educate Together Looking Forward To Working With Minister On Provision Of ‘Multi- and Non-denominational’ Schools

Educate Together notes with great interest the Minister’s comments at the Irish Primary Principals' Network conference today. It is reassuring that the government recognises the need to provide a national network of 'multi-denominational and non-denominational' schools to serve the needs of all families in Ireland.

This network is essential for Ireland’s educational infrastructure. It remains imperative that the Irish state prevents any child being discriminated against, marginalised or disadvantaged on account of the religious identity of their family in our education system.

Educate Together believes that its model of equality-based education, with its world-recognised ethical education curriculum, is a model of choice for such a network and looks forward to working with the Minister and his officials to achieve the government's target of 400 such schools as soon as possible.

Educate Together notes the Minister’s praise and comments for the Community National School as a multi-denominational model at the IPPN conference.

Many commentators, including Educate Together, have raised serious concerns on aspects of the Community National Schools model, not least of which is its compulsory registration, labelling and separation of children along religious lines in the classroom. It is hoped that these issues will be properly addressed in the evaluation and assessment of the CNS model that is referenced in the Minister’s comments and this will resolve the human rights violations that are implicit in the current approach.

Finally, Educate Together hopes that the Minister’s endorsement of the Community National School model of primary education is not indicative of any intention to disregard the views of thousands of parents who have specifically stated their preference for Educate Together’s equality-based model of education.

We Need Action On Education Equality - Now

As the dust settles on General Election 2016, a number of things are clear: this electorate wants change: over 50 sitting TDs have lost their seats and a host of new faces will make up the 32nd Dáil when it forms. What is also clear is that our education system needs serious reform: there are children living near schools in Ireland that won’t accept them on the basis of their belief background; there are children attending schools in Ireland who are obliged to spend teaching time away from the majority of their classmates because of their belief background. 

Whatever the make-up of the next Government, this injustice must be addressed. Parties and politicians must put aside their differences and acknowledge that this situation is not fair on communities, on families but, most of all, it is unfair to children. The next Dáil must deal with this injustice speedily, competently and effectively. Our legislators must propose a blueprint, identifying what can be done, where it can be done and who can do it. 

Educate Together has provided a plan - a national network of 300 equality-based primary schools and 30 equality-based second-level schools. Our aim is that all families would have access to an equality-based school within 30 minutes travel time from their home. All it needs now is a dedicated line of funding and a commitment to progress and to educational equality. The next Government must cost it, implement it and then we can all reap the rewards of a truly equal education system. 

Children cannot vote but they will remember. This ever-growing cohort of children - those turned away from or excluded in school - will be voting in 14 years, in 12 years or less. They will think back to their segregation from their classmates, to being made feel different and to being part of the minority and they will act and vote accordingly. 

Gestures of Goodwill Are Not Enough

The Irish Examiner reports today that the Catholic Church is set to make a “gesture” towards admitting pupils to its schools based on location and regardless of their religious affiliation.

On one level this is an acknowledgement that the status quo (which facilitates state-funded schools to discriminate against young children on the basis of religion) cannot continue any longer. 

But gestures of goodwill are not enough. The rights of parents and children should not be dependent on the benevolence of church authorities in a modern republic. Families should not have to be beholden to any religious institution for the vindication of their right to a state-funded education. 

Of course every child should be able to attend their local school. But their local school should treat all children with equal respect in the classroom, regardless of religious, social or cultural background. 

Educate Together is working towards a day when all children have access to a school that is truly inclusive and equality-based. We have a very practical plan to achieve this: the establishment of a national network of Educate Together primary and secondary schools. We are waiting to work with the next Government on implementing this plan.

Read about our plan to embed equality in the education system here.

Too Much To Expect In A Modern Democracy?

As General Election 2016 campaign comes to an end, now is a good time to reflect on what Ireland needs to attain real equality in education. 

We have been through the party manifestos. Some have offered concrete plans, promising numbers of schools that offer choice and proposing budgets to provide education equality. Many support the idea of education equality, acknowledging the concern of parents who only ask that their children have access to a school that promotes rather than tolerates difference and guarantees respect to each individual child in the classroom. We've been engaging with Educate Together supporters - thousands of them - and this is what they want. This is not too much to expect in a modern democracy. 

So, while promises and proposals are encouraging, we need the next Government to act on them. We need to see political will backed up by demonstrable commitment to equality in education through a fully costed line in the Programme for Government. 

There are now 77 Educate Together primary and four second-level schools in Ireland. In total, these 81 schools provide education for over 21,000 pupils. Thousands of children are learning in Educate Together schools and thousands more are waiting for Educate Together schools. They can wait no longer. We have provided a practical, achievable plan to embed equality in the education system: the establishment of a national network of Educate Together primary and secondary schools. We are waiting to work with the next Government on implementing it.

With the election tomorrow, it’s still not too late to contact your candidates. See if they’ve already signed up to our 4 Essentials for Equality in Education here or email them directly here.

The Social Democrats and Labour on Education Equality

Labour on funding education equality

This morning, Joan Burton TD and Kevin Humphreys TD outlined their party’s strategy on education equality. Educate Together welcomes Labour’s plan to ring-fence €10 million per year to provide educational equality - this represents a concrete plan for reform. Thus far, the Labour Party is the only party to commit such much needed-fundingAll political parties need to commit to similar funding strategies if they are serious about embedding equality in the education system in the lifetime of the next Dáil

The Labour Party committed to providing “a further 100 multi-denominational schools by 2021”. Educate Together welcomes this commitment but stresses that any new schools that are to be established must be in line with proven parental demand. Yes, there is a groundswell of public opinion demanding equality in education. But in the name of increasing plurality, political parties should not fall into the trap of establishing schools that merely provide lip-service to inclusion. Specifically, Educate Together has serious concerns about the Community National School (CNS) model of education. CNS schools have previously been described by the Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan as: 

“schools that offer multi-denominational education, through a model which can accommodate the beliefs of all children who are enrolled in each school.” 

In fact, CNS schools pay lip-service to inclusion and equality, as they support the labelling and segregation of children along religious lines during the school day. In contrast, Educate Together has established an equality-based model of education that is truly inclusive. Parents around the country are clamouring for equality-based Educate Together schools for their children, and their voices must to be heard. 

Social Democrats on equality and pluralism

On the same day, Stephen Donnellly TD launched the Social Democrats education manifesto, Cherishing Children Equally. The manifesto includes a much welcome commitment to ensuring that the patronage of all new schools should be representative of local parental preference. Educate Together looks forward to seeing the details of this important measure.

To advance the stalled divestment process, the Social Democrats propose that “once the viability of potential new a school is established, the State should accommodate parental demands within three years.” Educate Together welcomes this proposal. In 19 distinct areas, families are still waiting for the Educate Together national schools they were promised by the State - more than three years ago. These families were told that they would see equality-based schools established for their children, run by Educate Together. They are still waiting. 

Educate Together has asked all political parties to commit to Four Essentials for Equality in Education. All Social Democrats election candidates have committed to this campaign:

Repealing the ‘Catholics First’ law is not enough

Both the Labour Party and the Social Democrats today committed to repealing or amending Section 7(3)(c) of the Equal Status Act. Whilst this is a positive development, it must be pointed out that equal access is not the only issue confronted by parents and children from minority or non-religious backgrounds. In accessing religious-run schools, children will still be subject to religious iconography and required to ‘opt-out’ of religious instruction. Educate Together is the only educational provider that addresses these problems by welcoming children of all religious, social and cultural backgrounds and ensuring that all faith formation takes place outside school hours.

The Campaign For Equality In Education: Where Do We Go From Here?

The demand for equality in education has reached tipping point. Many General Election candidates are acknowledging the need for it and committing to providing it.  However, the question for parents, children and citizens today is “where do we go from here?” 

Equal access ≠ equal respect

Let us assume that in the lifetime of the next Dáil, Section 7(c) of the Equality Act is deemed illegal (unconstitutional?) and denominational schools will no longer be permitted to apply enrolment polices that discriminate on the basis of religion. It will, in a number of oversubscribed religious schools, ensure that non-baptised children will be more represented in the pupil numbers that they are today. These unbaptised children will be educated in a Catholic or Protestant school in which the National Curriculum takes into account the ‘child’s affective, aesthetic, spiritual, moral and religious needs’ while recognising ‘the rights of the different church authorities to design curricula in religious education at primary level and to supervise their teaching and implementation’. So, although they may facilitated to be absented from some aspects of religious teaching, their ‘religious education’ is wholly dictated by the religious patron of the school. They will be regarded as, labelled and identified as minorities with fewer rights than those who identify with the faith of the patron of the school.

Resistance is likely

Let us go further and assume that the ‘integrated nature’ of the curriculum through which religious instruction may be present in all subject areas is itself held to be unconstitutional.  How would this ruling be implemented in a system in which the status quo is deeply institutionalised in school practice, in employment contracts, in legal arrangements with school patrons, in colleges of teacher education and fundamentally in a system that is privately owned by religious bodies?

To introduce such a change by law will be met by considerable resistance both active and by the inertia of systems and custom and practice. Huge resistance to this change would be mounted by the Catholic Church and many within the system who wish to continue to avail of a faith-based education, be it Catholic, Protestant or Muslim. A complicated change process will need to be undertaken that will take years to implement.

A solution

Whatever way this is examined, nothing quick will emerge to satisfy the equality and rights of children in schools today or emerging schools in the next few years. It is most likely that the issue will remain a rather abstract and legal debate among organisations who will not provide a real and ‘effective remedy’ for children and parents needing equality in our education system today.

What is realistic and realisable is to rapidly provide an alternative network that delivers equality of access and esteem to children by:

These schools do not need to be under the patronage of Educate Together, but they must deliver the same level of guaranteed equality of esteem and access as Educate Together schools. 

The growth of this network should be prioritised according to those areas where most parents are demonstrating their desire to access Educate Together model schools and a planned programme, consistent with national planning objectives, should be implemented by the incoming government. This needs to be a properly resourced programme with a dedicated budget agreed at the cabinet table and built into the expenditure projections of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. There is no better example of a necessary “reform”.

Properly resourced, such a network would enable the vindication of the rights of parents and children and also maintain the right of parents to chose denominational schools if that is their preference. It will allow the State to demonstrate that is has lived up to its constitutional and international obligations and met the standards expected in a modern democratic state.

Fianna Fail: Securing The Future?

Whilst there is much in Fianna Fáil’s education manifesto, Securing The Future to be welcomed, the party’s proposal to increase plurality in school provision is to further rollout the problematic Community National School (CNS) model. 

Community National Schools were first opened in 2007 by Fianna Fáil’s Minister for Education Mary Hanafin TD. These schools were designed in close partnership with Catholic Church authorities. Existing Community National Schools, some of which have been in existence since 2008, are not sufficiently transparent. There is also uncertainty surrounding the democratic nature of the schools. This model of education is at best problematic and at worst damaging. While paying lip-service to inclusion, the model in practice supports the segregation of children along religious lines during the school day.

Fianna Fáil’s claim that the model is ‘highly successful’ is dubious and its pledge to extend the model is worrying. Educate Together has established a model of education that is truly inclusive. Parents around the country are clamouring for equality-based Educate Together schools for their children.

Divestment and progress on education equality

Fianna Fáil rightly recognises the need for diversity of patronage and divestment in the party’s manifesto: 

“We believe that divestment and increasing diversity in school patronage is essential and we will engage with all education partners to energise this process.”

True, the divestment process has been disappointing and there remains 19 areas across Ireland that still wait for their ‘divested’ school. The tax-paying families in these areas were promised equality-based Educate Together schools by the State in 2013 and that commitment must be honoured. 

Fianna Fáil’s claim that “the overwhelming focus on the long-term process of patronage divestment by the government has distracted from the more essential and immediately relevant question of how children from nonreligious backgrounds should be accommodated within the present structures” fudges the issue of equality in education. Families should not rely on the benevolence of a Church in which they have no belief and no stake to supply them with school places. Children should not be admitted to their local schools under sufferance, as outsiders to the ‘mainstream’. These children, be they Muslim, Hindu, non-religious, are not outsiders. They are citizens of the Republic and must be welcomed to a school that recognises and celebrates all the richness of diversity they bring. 

Equalisation of funding

Educate Together welcomes Fianna Fáil’s commitment to implementing a gradual equalisation of funding for voluntary secondary schools so that their funding begins to approach that granted to ETBs and community/comprehensive schools. This will benefit the children in such schools whose education should be funded on an equal basis. 

The removal of the cap on the expansion of the DEIS programme and enhanced investment in DEIS schools is a move towards equalising opportunity for all children as is the restoration of the Visiting Teacher Service for Travellers. EAL supports are vital in helping non-English speaking children settle and FF commit to revise the allocation criteria for EAL posts. Educate Together believes that investment and funding must be radically increased to provide proper supports for children with additional needs. All children deserve an equal chance 


The Fianna Fáil manifesto does not meet the urgency of investment and innovation that is needed in the education system. Our education system is underfunded. Addressing this is the key to our economic and social future. There should be a cross party consensus that investment in our schools, radically improving the funds available to boards and principals on the ground, providing balanced choice of schools so that all children are guaranteed equality of access and respect and improving the learning environment for all children are all absolute priorities for the next Programme for Government, whatever party forms it.

Labour Pledges to Fund Education Reform; Other Political Parties Should Follow Suit

“Labour is committed to establishing a €10m annual fund to support school reorganisation and amalgamation – a process that is necessary in itself and which can also re-invigorate the divestment process.”

Educate Together is encouraged to see that Labour’s election manifesto, Standing Up For Education has pledged a ‘ring-fenced fund of €10 million each year’ to support the reorganisation of patronage and the establishment of new schools. This represents a concrete plan for education reform. 

Educate Together believes strongly that all parties need to commit to similar funding strategies if they are serious about embedding equality in the education system in the lifetime of the next Dáil. 

It is undeniable that lack of dedicated funding has been a barrier to progress in the areas of divestment and the establishment of new schools to date. Indeed, just yesterday Educate Together warned that pledges would fail if not backed by funding and resources

It is Educate Together’s experience that equality in education cannot be achieved without significant investment and that this investment will be rewarded with a cohort of children who are educated without experience of religious segregation, with an understanding democratic principles and with an assurance that they are valued and respected as individuals.

Educate Together has outlined a practical, achievable plan to embed equality in the education system: a national network of 300 Educate Together primaryschools and 30 secondary schools Funding to the extent promised in Labour’s manifesto will enable Educate Together to better respond to massive surge in demand for equality-based education at primary and second-level.

Fine Gael and Labour Commitments Will Fail Without funding

Educate Together welcomes Fine Gael’s proposal to develop 300 non and multi-denominational schools by 2030, and Labour’s proposal, released this morning, to develop 100 multi-denominational schools by 2021. Both of these commitments echo Educate Together’s priority for a national network of 300 equality-based primary schools for Ireland. 

However, Educate Together states that these election pledges will surely fail unless political parties are willing to properly fund and resource them.

Paul Rowe, CEO, Educate Together:  “Right now, Educate Together offers a practical, achievable plan to embed equality in the education system: a national network of Educate Together primary and secondary schools. We are willing and able to work on opening these schools, but this cannot be done on well-intentioned policy documents and goodwill alone. Funding is needed.”

It is a fact that the level of progress by the outgoing Government in providing alternatives to Ireland’s religious-run schools (96% of the current system) barely scratches the surface of what is actually needed. This is because proper funding is simply not made available:

  • the current grant for every new primary school is just €10,000. This means that Educate Together has to raise €85,000 for each new primary school it opens. State funding for new schools must be increased. 
  • the State currently offers zero funding for the opening, establishment and support of Educate Together’s second-level schools. This needs to change. 
  • the outgoing Government has insisted that the divestment programme be a ‘no cost’ one. This means that just a handful of Educate Together schools have opened up in divestment areas, with 19 areas remaining. The acceleration of the divestment programme must be funded.

There is a groundswell of public opinion that is now demanding equality in education, and evidence of parental demand for equality-based schools is undeniable. Families nationwide have chosen Educate Together as their favoured model of education and many in this constituency of parents will be voting in accordance with this priority. 

Educate Together has plans to work with communities and other providers to open hundreds of new equality-based schools, to transform the Irish education system for the children of today and tomorrow. For this to happen, and for the political commitments of parties like Fine Gael and Labour to become a reality, State funding streams must be put in place to fund education equality.

School Access Is Not The Only Issue

Once again the issue of over-subscription to Catholic national schools has been raised in the national media. This morning Newstalk Breakfast covered the Irish Catholic’s survey that less than 2% of Catholic schools in Ireland are oversubscribed. The implication is that there are not that many that children being refused access to their local school on the basis of religion. It is simply unacceptable that any state-funded schools in Ireland continue to be allowed to discriminate against children on the basis of religion. Listen here

Perhaps more unhelpful in this continuing debate is the implication that access is the only issue parents face when choosing a school for their children. It is undoubtedly a fact that many children do get accepted into Catholic schools and those children have to ‘opt-out’ of religion instruction, marginalised and othered in their own classrooms. This is an inadequate arrangement and does not address the inequalities embedded within the Irish primary school system.

This, in addition to the democratically-run and child-centred ethos of Educate Together, is why parents want Educate Together schools for their children. Nineteen areas still wait for the Educate Together schools they were promised by the outgoing Government and start-up groups around the country are clamouring for Educate Together at primary and second level - expressions of parental interest are reaching up to 15,000-20,000. 

Of course every child should be able to attend their local school. But their local school should treat all children with equal respect in the classroom, regardless of religious, social or cultural background. Educate Together is working towards a day when all children have access to a school that is truly inclusive and equality-based. We are asking all our supporters to ask all election candidates to commit to Educate Together’s 4 Essentials for Equality in Education