Education boards hit out at divestment 'bias' claims
Education and training boards have rejected suggestions that they will not act impartially in the new process proposed to speed up the transfer of Catholic primary schools to other patrons.
Their representative body, Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), said it was "concerned about certain information, which is being disseminated by other education providers and organisations which advocate for them".
This is seen as a direct response to claims by the non-denominational education body Educate Together, which questioned the fairness and transparency of the process because of a key role given to the ETBs, which, it said would award them "disproportionate influence".
As local education authorities, the ETBs have been tasked with identifying demand for school choice in local areas, and initiating discussions about a reconfiguration of the local schools' network to meet any such demand. Fuller and final discussions on the future patronage of a school will be under the control of local bishops.
ETBs are also patrons of community national schools, and, in that role, will be interested in assuming patronage of any schools being handed over - and, in many cases, are likely to be in direct competition with Educate Together.
In a statement last night, ETBI said "as statutory bodies fulfilling their civic role, they will be totally impartial in the identification stage" and also noted that Education Minister Richard Bruton had stated that "protocols will be put in place to ensure transparency and fairness".
Community national schools differ from Educate Together schools in that the former offer religious instruction - to all faiths - within the school day, while the latter provide a general education about religions.