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Wednesday 24 January 2018

Parents demand right to pick schools for children

Parents and pupils queue outside the Loretto Convent in Swords to enrol in the 120 places available in local schools in this 2006 file
image. Almost three quarters of parents believe they should have the right to choose from a variety of publicly-funded schools
Parents and pupils queue outside the Loretto Convent in Swords to enrol in the 120 places available in local schools in this 2006 file image. Almost three quarters of parents believe they should have the right to choose from a variety of publicly-funded schools

John Walshe Education Editor

PARENTS are demanding the right to pick the kind of school they want for their children -- only a minority favours a 'one-size-fits-all' school catering for children of all religions and none.

Nearly three-quarters of adults -- 73pc -- believe parents should have the right to choose from a variety of publicly funded schools for their children.

Just over a quarter say that in order to promote social integration, all children should go to the same kind of school.

Respondents were also asked what one kind of school they would choose for their children from four options provided. The most popular choice was a Catholic school (47pc) followed by a 'State-run school in which all religions are taught' (37pc).

Only a small minority of people (11pc) favour schools in which no religion is taught.

Among parents of dependent children, support for both Catholic schools and State-run, multi-denominational schools is even higher (49pc and 39pc respectively).

The finding is contained in a poll conducted by RED C on behalf of The Iona Institute.

Iona Institute director David Quinn said: "What these poll findings show is that there is very little support for those who want to replace publicly funded denominational schools with State-run multi-denominational or non-denominational schools.

"Following the setting up of an emergency school in Balbriggan in September which is catering mainly for the children of immigrants, denominational schooling was attacked as 'segregationist' and 'divisive'," he said.

"This was asserted without any real proof. It was suggested that the way to remedy this was to send children instead to publicly funded, State-run multi or non-denominational national schools.

"However, parents are the primary educators of their children, and not the State. Therefore, publicly-funded schools must reflect the choices of parents for their children. The parental choice position we can now see has overwhelming support. Among parents of dependent children, support reaches 78pc.

"The poll also shows that Catholic schools remain the most popular choice of parents, although there is also strong-support for the founding of additional State-run multi-denominational schools."

He concluded: "No-one is arguing that the composition of our schools must remain as it is now. But it would be a grave mistake to simply replace the denominational system with a State-run, multi or non-denominational one."

n Research was conducted via telephone by RED C among a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+. Questions were asked on separate studies with fieldwork dates of February 25 to 27, 2008 and March 10 to 12, 2008.

In both questions respondents were asked to choose only one of the options provided.

The poll has been conducted ahead of a conference on denominational schools organised by The Iona Institute and 'The Word' magazine. 'In Defence of Denominational Schools' will be held in the Tara Towers Hotel on April 4.

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