Quinn announces historic handover of four Catholic schools
THE historic handover of four Catholic primary schools to other patron bodies will be announced today.
The schools involved in the groundbreaking move will open under new patronage next September, and while the number involved is small, it has been hailed as a significant step in the history of Irish primary education.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn will confirm today the names of the schools that will transfer in 2014, while discussions are continuing about other possible handovers in 2015.
It is believed that Scoil San Seamus, a former Christian Brothers school, is among those to be handed over this year. The school, in Basin Lane, near Dublin city centre, has merged with a nearby girls' school.
It is likely to become home to the multi-denominational Portobello Educate Together school, which opened in temporary premises last year pending negotiations between the Department of Education and the Christian Brothers schools' trust, ERST.
The schools named today will be the first to transfer under Mr Quinn's initiative to provide greater diversity in education to reflect societal changes.
The Catholic Church runs about 90pc of primary schools – and Mr Quinn has overseen a process of identifying areas where there is a demand from parents for more choice.
His Department of Education's work has been concentrated on areas where the local primary schools are exclusively or overwhelmingly under the control of the Catholic Church.
The focus has been on towns and suburbs with stable populations, where there is no possibility that a brand new school, which could introduce some diversity to the area, will open.
The department conducted surveys of parents in over 40 areas and in 28 cases it found sufficient demand for an alternative patron.
Mr Quinn then asked local bishops to consult with their communities with a view to vacating a premises – perhaps, through a merger of two existing schools – that could be handed over to a different patron.
Department of Education general secretary Sean O Foghlu signalled the possibility of handovers when he spoke at the recent annual meeting of the Catholic Primary School Managers' Association.
He said it would be important for school communities to be able to see the practical application of the change process on the ground and what it meant for them.
"I believe that, in turn, this will give impetus to the process and be a source of encouragement for further positive developments in other areas for 2015 and onwards."