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.