Written Answers - School Patronage

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 715 No. 2

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  682.  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd  Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   when she last held discussions with the Church regarding school patronage; if any areas or specific schools have been agreed for the transfer of ownership; if she will provide details of same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31193/10]

  692.  Deputy Fergus O’Dowd  Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills  Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan   if she will establish a national forum on patronage in 2010; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [31203/10]

[906]Tánaiste and Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  I propose to take Questions Nos. 682 and 692 together.

The issue of patronage and governance of our primary schools is of significant national importance. Irish society will continue to change at pace over the years to come and our education system must therefore continue to adapt and change to reflect this. I have previously indicated that I recognise that there is a need to seek the input and views of a wide cross section of contemporary Ireland on the relevant issues.

As the Deputy may be aware consideration of many of the relevant issues is under way already.

A review of procedures for establishment of new primary schools is being undertaken by the Commission on School Accommodation. Among the range of issues being considered is the issue of patronage including the criteria that must be met to become a patron and the circumstances where changes to patronage may be warranted. The Commission is due to report to me shortly.

Furthermore, my Department has had discussions on the potential transfer of patronage of catholic primary schools with senior representatives of the Catholic Church. During discussions with representatives of the Catholic Church in November 2009 it was agreed that my Department would look at identifying a sample number of areas of relatively stable demographics where a requirement for the establishment of new primary schools is unlikely to emerge in the foreseeable future and where the provision is exclusively Catholic or where there is very limited diversity of provision at present. A report on the assessment of ten sample locations, where the modalities for changes to schools’ patronage may be tested, has been drafted. It is my intention that this report be provided to the Catholic Church authorities and published in the near future.

There has already been significant consultation around these issues with stakeholders. The extent and nature of the further consultation under consideration will be determined as the work underway is completed. My Department will continue to liaise with all of the relevant stakeholders in relation to the issues concerned.


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