05 May 2016
Sarah Mac Donald
What future is there for Catholic schools in Ireland, asks Sarah Mac Donald
Church patronage of Irish schools is being scaled back, as the Government seeks greater choice in education. Sarah Mac Donald examines the criticisms levelled at the Church and asks what future there is for Catholic schooling in Ireland
There are currently two watchwords in Irish education and the Church in Ireland is coming under fire on both counts: divestment and diversity. The Church is accused of failing to fulfil a government requirement to begin transferring its patronage from dozens of schools across the country. Tied up with this is criticism that it uses its admissions policy to exclude non-Catholics from its oversubscribed schools.
When the Irish Government began to examine Catholic patronage of primary schools, it was anticipated that dozens of schools would quickly move away from church control. The idea was to create greater diversity within the primary sector but, since 2013, just eight schools have divested, according to the Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan. She claimed more would be confirmed over the course of 2016.
The vast majority of children in Ireland attend denominational schools, which account for 96 per cent of the primary sector. Catholic patrons account for 90 per cent of schools and the Church of Ireland 5 per cent, while other religious patrons include Presbyterian, Jewish and Muslim bodies.
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