Catholic order still wants to run new schools
THE Catholic Church has staked a claim on running new post-primary schools in developing areas.
The Loreto order of nuns has made a general application to be considered as a patron body for new schools.
It sets down a marker that the Catholic Church wants to continue to open schools at second-level, including in growing communities that have a broad cultural mix.
The Loreto application was confirmed by the Department of Education as it announced a major rethink on the issue of second-level patronage.
A spokesman for Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe said there were "several significant factors emerging which suggest that a detailed review, examination and consideration of the State's policy regarding the establishment and support of new post-primary schools is warranted."
The department's statement follows the surprise withdrawal of patronage from County Dublin VEC for a proposed new second-level school in Lucan, west Dublin.
The department awarded patronage to the VEC in 2008 for a new community college to cater for the rapidly growing young population in the area.
But last week, Marie Griffin, the chief executive officer of the VEC, was told patronage was being withdrawn.
The unprecedented move was welcomed by the multi-denominational patron body, Educate Together, which has been campaigning to become a second-level patron, starting in Lucan, where it has five primary schools.
However, the confirmation that the Loreto Education Trust has made a general application to be considered as a patron in developing areas throws the process wide open.
The minister's spokesman said it was anticipated in 2008 that two new second-level schools would be required in the general Clonburris area in Lucan.
At that time, the then minister decided the first such school would be under the patronage of the County Dublin VEC.
However, given the demographics and the nature of the planning, design and building process, no building has started yet and it is likely that only a single school will be needed in the medium term.
Mr O'Keeffe's spokesman said: "Issues in relation to patronage and the future of the State's policy on new second-level schools are now being considered and it is likely that decisions will be made before a building is proceeded with."
He said that in addition to the County Dublin VEC, an application had been made by Educate Together and a general application in relation to schools in developing areas had also been received from the Loreto Education Trust.
The Catholic Church has complained that it has not been awarded patronage of its fair share of second-level schools over the past two decades.
Ferdia Kelly of the Joint Managerial Body, which represents Catholic school managements across the State, said: "We would continue to feel that we have been catering for students in Lucan, along with the voluntary secondary school sector, for many years.
"We have been very successful in dealing with students of all faiths."
Local Labour TD Joanna Tuffy said it was unprecedented to take back or review a decision about patronage.