THE parents of national school children in Fermoy are being asked to take part in a groundbreaking survey aimed at addressing the dominance of the Catholic Church within primary education.
Fermoy is one of 38 areas across the country to take part in the latest survey on school patronage following a pilot exercise last year that saw parents in five areas vote in favour of greater choice.
As a direct result of that the Catholic Church, which controls more than 90% of Ireland's 3,000 national schools, has been asked to hand over one school in each of the five areas to Educate Together. This after the multi-denominational body had been cited within the survey as having most support as an alternative patron.
This latest survey will see the parents of all children up to 12years-old within the 38 areas being asked if they would like to see change and if so, who they would like to see operating their local national schools.
The initiative follows on from the recommendations of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.
Education Minister Ruiari Quinn described the initiative as an "historic opportunity for parents to have a real say in the type of school they wish to send their children to."
He admitted there was "little prospect" of any new schools opening in Fermoy or the other 37 areas included within the survey.
"However, if parents demonstrate that they want a greater choice of primary school, then we will work with existing patrons to ensure they can send their children to a school that best reflects their own ethos and beliefs.
The bodies that have expressed a desire to take over schools include the VECs, AN Foras Patrunachta, Educate Together and the National Leaning Network.
The survey went live this week at www.education.ie and will continue until February 8.
It will be accompanied by an information campaign that will include a leaflet drop to households and adverts in local media.
The Department will publish the outcome of the survey once the responses have been collated.
Meanwhile, Minister Quinn said he does not expect the transfer of schools within areas requesting change to take place before the end of 2014.
"The process will begin as soon as we have the details of the survey available and we will convey that to church authorities by the end of February," said Mionister Quinn.
"They will have six months to consider how they are going to implement the findings," he added.