Tuesday 24 October 2017

Archbishop Martin backs new schools handover

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has promised to work with Education Minister Richard Bruton on his plans for the handover of Catholic primary schools to other patron bodies.

Dr Diarmuid Martin said he would be "willing to co-operate on pilot projects" to see how it would work in reality.

Mr Bruton has announced moves to revitalise the process to divest some of the 90pc of primary schools under the control of the Catholic Church, in order to offer parents more choice.

The minister is suggesting grassroots talks in areas where demand for change is identified, with a view to leasing an existing school property from the church if agreement is reached on transfer to a new patron.

Speaking to RTÉ's Sean O'Rourke, Dr Martin admitted the divestment process had been "far too slow", and said there was a need for new approach.

He said that while "you can have all these ideas at an intellectual level", there was a need to talk to the community to see how it could work.

Archbishop Martin said the approach taken in the consultation with parents under the original process, "was wrong" and "the right information" had not been gathered.

"I am hoping the minister will get it right. He should be asking community what they really want," said Dr Martin, who supports the plan to survey parents of pre-school children, rather than parent of existing pupils. "If I consult with parents in a school, they are the wrong people, I should be talking to parents of children aged 2-3."

Dr Martin also referred to the emerging option of community national schools which, in many cases, will be rivalling the more familiar Educate Together school model, to take over patronage of Catholic schools. He thought the community national school model offered "a solution".

Community national schools differ from Educate Together in that they offer formal religious instruction - to all faiths - during the school day. Educate Together provides a general education about religions.

Dr Martin said it wasn't only about pupils, adding: "I don't think a teacher should be obliged to teach a religion if they don't believe."

Irish Independent

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