New primary schools signal declining Catholic influence
NONE of five new primary schools opening in the next two years will be under the control of the Catholic Church.
The Department of Education yesterday gave the go-ahead for the five schools to open in Dublin's commuter belt in September 2011 and 2012.
The share-out reflects the shifting ground in Ireland's educational landscape, in particular the diminishing role of the Catholic Church.
The schools will cater for the fast-growing communities in west Dublin as well as the burgeoning population of Ashbourne, in neighbouring south Meath.
Three of the schools will open next September and the other two in September 2012 -- and all will be either multi-denominational or inter-denominational.
The multi-denominational body Educate Together will be patron to three of the schools, in Mulhuddart and west Blanchardstown in September, and in Ashbourne in 2012.
The Irish language organisation, An Foras Patrunachta, will be patron of a new multi-denominational school in Ashbourne in September, and an inter-denominational school in Mulhuddart in 2012.
In multi-denominational schools, parents arrange for the teaching of religion outside school hours, while an inter-denominational school provides religious teaching for children of more than one denomination during the school day.
The Catholic Church has been the dominant force in primary school patronage, controlling 92pc of Ireland's 3,200 primary schools.
The influx of immigrant families since the late 1990s, coupled with a fall-off in the number of practising Catholics, has created a demand for greater diversity in the education system.