Posted by Schooldays Newshound, on 28/05/2018. Tags: Parenting Education And Politics
The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton T. D. today (Monday, 28th of May) announced that surveys of parents of pre-school children in 16 areas across the country are now under way, commencing the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process.
Today’s announcement fulfils a key action in the Action Plan for the Education, which aims to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026.
Most schools – denominational and multi–denominational, welcome children with all beliefs and none. Notwithstanding that however, it is recognised that more diversity is needed to meet the changing needs of our population.
The Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process is Minister Bruton’s plan to deliver on the Government’s target to reach 400 multi-denominational and non-denominational schools by 2030. New schools will account for a certain amount of this provision, but transfers of existing schools from religious patronage will also be required to achieve that target.
Minister Bruton said: “The new process will draw on the lessons from the previous model, such as the importance of live transfers and the downsides of having to await closures or amalgamations.”
There are two Phases to the new School Reconfiguration process – the Identification Phase and the Implementation Phase. Today’s announcement marks the beginning of the Identification Phase.
This change needs to evolve locally, within communities themselves. Education and Training Boards (ETBs) are locally-based education authorities and therefore best placed to lead this process. Each of the 16 ETBs across the country have selected an initial pilot area where the first surveys of pre-school parents will be carried out. The relevant City and County Childcare Committee will actually conduct the surveys on behalf of the ETB. Parents will now have two weeks in which to complete the surveys, and all surveys will be completed by mid-June 2018.
ETBs will then analyse the survey results and draw up a comprehensive report on the position in relation to each of the 16 pilot areas for submission to the Department of Education and Skills, who will then subsequently publish the reports.
The survey results will form the basis of discussions with the most prevalent patron/landowner in the area (the Catholic Bishop in most cases) concerning the transfer of patronage of an existing school to meet that demand. The response by the landowner/patron to any identified demand for greater diversity will be included in the report prepared by the ETB. Quarterly reports will provide updates on implementation.
Minister Bruton said: “Our aim is to make Ireland’s education and training service the best in Europe by 2026. This means being the best at dealing with complex issues around diversity, inclusion and parental choice. This new process for supporting transfers of schools to multi-denominational patrons, in response to the wishes of local families, is based around principles of transparency and cooperation.
“I believe this process has the potential to change the course of education in Ireland by providing a system which reflects the changing needs of families. I urge all parties to engage in this process constructively, with a view to reaching solutions that achieve the wishes of all involved.”
A second round of town selections and surveys of pre-school parents will be organised by ETBs when the outcomes of the initial round of pilot surveys have been assessed and any necessary adjustments made in the process.
Following the publication of the first round of reports, the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process will move into the Implementation Phase. The Implementation Phase will involve:Consultation with local school communities on accommodating the demand for diversity by transferring patronage of an existing school to a new multi- or non-denominational patron.
Agreement on transfer to a new patron following engagement with all potential patrons and school/community.
Application to the Minister for transfer of patronage of the selected school.
Minister Bruton said “The identification of a new patron must reflect the wishes of parents and of the school community. In each case, I believe that the best way to achieve this will be to hold a public meeting where each prospective patron can make their case to the school community, followed by a vote of all parents within that school community (whether they attended the meeting or not).”
The Minister also announced that the “early movers” provision will enable school communities which have already decided to seek a transfer of patronage (independent of the survey process) to request their existing patron to apply to the Minister for a direct transfer of patronage under section 8 of the Education Act. The Minister encouraged any school which is seeking an early transfer of patronage to contact their patron directly.
Such a transfer has already successfully taken place in Two-Mile National School outside Killarney, where the Catholic Bishop of Kerry requested a transfer of patronage to Kerry ETB on foot of a request from local parents and the school successfully reopened in September 2017 as a multi-denominational Community National School.
It is understood that a number of schools are currently considering transfers of patronage under the “early movers” provision of the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process and the Department is supportive of the progression of such applications.
The Minister reiterated his view that there is no one model that will provide the answer to this complex issue, there is room for a number of different multi- and non-denominational patrons to respond to different parental wishes through the different process now in place, including existing providers like An Foras Patrunachta, the Community National Schools and Educate Together.
Since Minister Bruton was appointed Minister for Education and Skills, a total of 26 additional multi-denominational schools have been established or sanctioned.
Source: Department of Education and Skills