Castlebar school could see Catholic church divested of its patronage to offer choice

Following the news this week that parents of pre-school and primary school children in Castlebar are being asked to participate in an online survey about the possible change of patronage of schools, Mayo VEC has come forward with details of a possible alternative to the Catholic Church patronage model.

Mayo VEC who currently provide secondary school and further education options in the county have put forward the case for a community national school in Mayo should parents decide they want a change of patronage.

In a VEC run community school diversity is recognised and celebrated and respect is shown to different faiths. The ambition is that the school becomes a centre of the local community and children are encouraged and supported in living their lives to the full.

The community school model has proven to work, according to Bina Munnelly, of Mayo VEC.

According to the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn the change will be slow but some schools will be transferred from Catholic control to other models of patronage in different parts of the country.

Castlebar’s inclusion in the online survey would suggest that a school or schools in the county town could be in line for the transferral of patronage from the traditional Catholic church to a new model.

Ninety three percent of the 3,200 primary schools in Ireland are under Roman Catholic patronage but the Government is now looking at divesting the Church of that role in order to offer choice to families.

The online surveys were recommended by the Forum on Pluralism and Patronage which published a report into the matter earlier this year. The report suggested that up to 50 schools in areas where choice is limited or non-existent should change patron to provide for diversity.

Parents in Castlebar will be surveyed to find out what kind of education they want and if there is a demand for change the Department of Education will talk to existing school patrons about the process of change. Once the initial survey of five pilot towns is complete a further 39 areas will then be surveyed with the first transfers likely to take place in Dublin. It is expected that parents in Ballina and Westport will be surveyed in November.

Educate Together has also welcomed the announcement of Castlebar as one the five areas to be included in the first round of surveys of parental primary school preference.

Commenting on the Minister’s announcement, Jarlath Munnelly, Educate Together regional development officer, described the survey as “a milestone in providing for diversity in Irish education”.

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