'Give 10pc of school places to unbaptised children'
Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30
Up to 10pc of places in Church schools should be set aside for non-Catholic children, according to a group of Catholic educationalists and a leading barrister.
The newly established Faith in Our Schools group is an advocate for denominational schools, but has called for the "faith first" selection criterion to be modified to take account of the changing nature of Irish society.
The suggestion comes as the formation of a Government puts a new focus on the debate over lack of choice in an education system where 90pc of primary schools are controlled by the Catholic Church.
A promise of the last Government to divest Catholic schools to other patron bodies as a way of offering an alternative to parents in areas where no new schools are being built has made slow progress.
The Programme for Government is committed to continuing the process.
Catholic schools are legally allowed to give priority to children of their faith, or to children who have at least been baptised as Catholics.
But in cases where a school is over-subscribed, the so-called 'baptism rule' causes problems when parents of non-Catholic or unbaptised children cannot get their children a place in the local school.
Faith in Schools said a very small minority of Catholic primary schools do not have enough places to meet demand, but where that happened 10pc of places should be set aside for non-Catholic children.
The Faith in Schools group includes Prof Eamonn Conway, Head of Theology at Mary Immaculate Teacher Training College, Limerick; Dr John Murray, lecturer in Christian Ethics at Mater Dei/Dublin City University, and of Catholic think tank the Iona Institute; and Patrick Treacy, SC.
A number of lecturers in primary teacher training colleges are also involved, along with Niall McVeigh, deputy president of Cistercian College, Mount St Joseph, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and Dom Richard Purcell, the Abbott of Mount St Joseph.
Meanwhile, Educate Together will open two new primary schools in Dublin in September.
The multi-denominational body has been selected as the patron for a new school on the grounds of All Hallows College, Drumcondra, and another at Bannow Road, Cabra, both on the north side of the city.
Education Minister Richard Bruton has also announced that an all-Irish school will open in the Goatstown/Stillorgan area, under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta, in September.