Thursday 20 October 2016

At last the Government is facing up to its responsibilities

Published 09/06/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Education Richard Bruton Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Minister for Education Richard Bruton Photo: Frank Mc Grath

I write in the light of your news item (June 7) reporting Opposition TDs' criticism of Richard Bruton's plans to see rapid expansion of State-organised community national schools, and in response to Colette Browne's highly critical article in a similar vein.

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Over three-and-a-half years ago, the Department of Education undertook a massive patronage survey in the greater Killarney area. As part of the consultation the Department stated that there was no need for an additional school in the area, and that one of the existing Catholic schools would have to be divested.

The overwhelming body of parents voted against this option. At the time a few people, like myself, argued that there were enough pupils to warrant a new school and that such a school should be established for those not wanting a Catholic education.

Some of us argued that a community national school could be provided alongside the town's VEC. We were clearly told that the numbers did not warrant an additional school - yet, in the intervening years, almost all existing schools have had permission to build many additional classrooms.

The Catholic patron and local boards of management have stepped in where Labour education ministers failed to act. As a Catholic I want to see the enhancement of Catholic education, but not to the detriment of choice for the minority of families who expressed a desire for alternative provision.

Under Richard Bruton, and freed from Labour's ideological and fruitless stranglehold on the education portfolio, it seems that at last the Government is facing up to its responsibilities.

How strange then that defeated Aodhán Ó Ríordáin now wants to take credit for "the progressive measures" that so spectacularly failed his former Labour ministerial colleagues.

Alan Whelan, Killarney, Co Kerry

Journalists getting it so wrong

May I express my dismay in reading the disingenuous journalism patently expressed in your 'comment' pages (June 7) by both Deirdre Conroy and Colette Browne.

Referring to the 'Eighth Amendment', Ms Conroy describes this constitutional legislation as "demanding more attention for the right to total autonomy over women's bodies".

It is clear that the amendment is intended to honour both the mothers and their viable infants ('to love both mother and child') - human rights all-round protected.

On the topic of children's admittance to schools, Ms Browne contends that "many parents opt to baptise their children, not because of any religious conviction, but because they don't want their children to suffer when the time comes to enrol them in schools".

It is not true, in my professional experience, that 'many' parents are so-minded.

Parents who seek baptism for their children do so to initiate them into the express love of God, as specifically affirmed by this Christian Sacrament - which the parents themselves mostly profess.

Fr Tom Stack, Milltown, Dublin

State has failed my daughter

I am writing to you to highlight the State's failure to provide for choice in primary education in North Dublin, following the Minister of Education & Skills' refusal to grant permission for the opening of a new multi-denominational Irish-medium primary school in Drumcondra.

The proposed school, under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta, is one that would be open to all children, regardless of their level of ability or the language they speak at home. Parents of 733 children in the surrounding areas expressed a preference for this school during a recent consultation process - a record level of interest in a new gaelscoil - and a further 60 have sought to register since.

Yet the school to open in September 2016 is to teach through English, and will not cater for our children's developmental and educational needs. I understood that one of the main objectives of the process for the establishment of new schools was to increase the choice available for parents in terms of their children's education, and to provide for equality of access and esteem.

This decision surely does not achieve this. The Minister has instead left us without the choice of non-denominational Irish-medium education for our children.

I am Polish - living and working in Ireland and married to an Irishman. My three-year-old daughter is trilingual already, speaking Polish, English and Russian, and my husband and I want her to receive an education through Irish.

Why? The benefits of immersion education are proven beyond doubt: children develop better cognitive and communicative skills, increased tolerance and self-esteem, they have greater attainment - not only in Irish - but also in English and Maths, and children who attend Irish-medium schools report the highest levels of happiness in school (Growing Up in Ireland, ESRI).

Due to our strong beliefs in human rights values and the separation of the State from any church, my husband and I cannot send our daughter to a school with a religious ethos.

The proposed gaelscoil in Drumcondra was our only hope to have our daughter educated in a non-religious school through the State's first official language, in this Republic that is nominally secular.

Karolina Stefaczak, Glasnevin, Dublin

Some balance wouldn't go amiss

I note that Colette Browne's article on our school system is listed under the heading of 'opinion' (June 7).

In my view, it might have been better to file it under 'propaganda', given it's very black-and-white approach to the issue, with denominational schooling portrayed as bad and the alternatives as good. I realise that it must be frustrating for those on the liberal-left side of the debate that they are the only ones who seem to recognise just how discriminatory it all is - perpetuating inequality and forcibly segregating children from each other.

Particularly so when the Minister insists on allowing the vast majority of parents to continue receiving the denominational education for their children that they are entitled to under our Constitution, instead of being the good, politically correct little politician that they want him to be and dismantling it all in favour of a secular system the excludes the religious elements that makes their flesh crawl. As I said, frustrating.

But, even so, a modicum of balance wouldn't go amiss.

Stuff like this that is so nakedly partisan may make those who already agree with her cheer; however, it only makes me want to say 'well done' to the Minister for trying to do his best to meet the needs of the majority of children in this country, rather than acceding to the ideological agenda of a small handful of people.

Revd Patrick G Burke, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

Irish Independent

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