Monday 16 September 2019

'It’s good for them to be taught inclusion' - Schools drop religious ethos in bid to ensure survival

Julia Clarke with Tadhg (12) and Peadar (10)
Julia Clarke with Tadhg (12) and Peadar (10)
Stock picture

Gabija Gataveckaite

Four schools around the country have dropped their religious ethos and changed patron.

Principals in schools have said that these measures were taken in order to attract more pupils to enrol and ensure the survival of the schools.

Kilnamanagh NS in Oulart, Co Wexford, Scoil an Ghleanna NS in Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry as well as Lecarrow NS in Co Roscommon and Tahilla NS in Co Kerry have resorted to making the switch.

Julia Clarke is one of the parents who worked towards making Scoil an Ghleanna NS a multi-denominational school. She has two children attending the school, Tadhg (12) and Peadar (10).

“The changes have been parent-led, but also the whole community has had a say and has worked together on it,” she said.

“A third of the students in the school were non-religious and I was actually really happy with the school anyway, but now that it’s dropped the religious ethos it’s even better.”

“The school was absolutely under threat and there’s a few small schools in the area so we want to see them stay open.”

She explained that she believes in children being taught inclusion.

“I think it’s good for them to be taught inclusion, as they’re going to be mixing with other cultures. I think we have to bring up the next generation in a way that will be more tolerant,” she added.

Speaking to, Sorcha Ní Chatháin, prinicipal of Scoil an Ghleanna NS, said she hoped that these changes will encourage more students to enrol.

“We have 14 pupils and are looking for a 15th in order to secure our second teacher in the school,” she said.

“The changes haven’t been a battle but much more of a community effort, it’s a community-led initiative and it’s been a collaborative effort with the parents and the community.”

The school will now drop its Catholic ethos and be the first-ever community gaelscoil, as well a multi-denominational school.

“We’ve all put in all efforts to keep the school open and the parents have also been very involved in the process,” she added.

The Kerry Education and Training Board will now be the school’s new patron.

“The support from the board has been unbelievable and we are a very active community- this is just another way of offering something extra,” she added.

Bróna Kenneally has taken over as the new principal at the Kilnamanagh National School in Oulart in Wexford. The Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board will be the school's new patrons.

Just like Scoil an Ghleanna, they are also expecting a 15th pupil to enrol at the school to secure a second teacher.

“We are expecting several more students come September, and some parents can decide that they want to enrol their child last minute,” she explained.

The school previously had a Protestant ethos.

“Parents are very happy and reassured with these changes. I think they’re happy to have more choice at their doorstep and it has been warmly received, it's a very positive thing,” she said.

“It also gives people more choice in the community. A community is deeply related to a traditional school, with the main difference is that the sacraments are conducted outside of school.”

The main differences between schools with a religious ethos and those without  is around the  teaching of  religion - multi-denominational  schools offer a general education about world religions and belief systems and do not provide sacramental preparation.

Schools that would have previously had the local diocese as their patrons will now see their local education and training boards become patrons.

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