The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD, has published the results of primary school patronage surveys from 38 towns across the country.
The report recommends the establishment of a Gaelscoil in Birr. Edenderry was also part of the survey however no changes have been recommended there.
The surveys were undertaken as part of the Minister’s response to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in Primary schools and are aimed at establishing if parents want a more diverse range of primary school patrons in their area.
An Foras Pátrúnachta is ‘delighted’ that the Department of Education’s survey of parents has recognised the huge demand for education through Irish in Birr. The Department’s report recommended that 23 multidenominational schools are founded, including a Gaelscoil in Birr. The survey also recognised that there is a demand for education through Irish in areas such as Malahide, Skerries and Portmarnock in Dublin.
Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, General Secretary of An Foras Pátrúnachta, said that parents in Birr have been campaigning for years for a Gaelscoil in the area and are delighted that they have succeeded. An Foras Pátrúnachta is looking forward to working with the Catholic Church in this process.
Caoimhín Ó hEaghra said that An Foras Pátrúnachta, the only patron which was set up to promote education through Irish, is working hard to support its schools and to set up new schools. An Foras Pátrúnachta is fulfilling a very important role with support from its schools, parents and from the Irish language community in general. We are grateful for this and are looking forward to further developing what has been achieved to date.
Detailed analysis of the surveys shows that there is sufficient parental demand in 23 out of the 38 areas to support an immediate change in the existing school patronage.
22 of the areas will see the establishment of an English language multi-denominational school and one area will see an Irish language school established. Parents expressed a preference for an Educate Together patron in 20 of the areas and the other two towns will see Community National Schools established, run by the local VEC. 30 of the 38 areas surveyed already have a gaelscoil option available for parents.
Welcoming the publication of the surveys, Minister Quinn said, “This is another significant step on the road to providing a plurality of education and real choice for parents in the type of primary school they wish to send their children to. We are confident of a generous response from the existing patrons to the clear demand for change in more than 60% of the areas surveyed this year. “
The level of demand deemed sufficient to support a recommendation for a change in ethos of school was set at the minimum enrolment sufficient for a four teacher school. The outcomes and recommendations were verified by the New Schools’ Establishment Group which has responsibility for overseeing the process.
While there is a cohort of parents in the remaining 15 out of the 38 areas who would support a change in patronage, the surveys show there is not sufficient demand at present to ensure that a school of different patronage would be viable. However, it is recognised that this may change in the future, at which point the position could be re-examined.
“There is also a strong demonstration through the surveys that many parents are happy with the current schools on offer and I think this reflects well on the education services provided by our existing patrons,” added Minister Quinn.
The surveys were undertaken for four weeks from the 14th of January. Parents of 0-12 year olds in each area were invited to participate. The towns were chosen as they had a relatively stable population of between 5,000 and 20,000 and therefore little prospect of any new schools opening in coming years to cater for demographic demand.
A total of 10,715 valid survey responses were received, the vast majority of which were filled in on-line. More than 2,000 responses were deemed invalid as they did not contain a PPS number, the address of the respondent or their name. Responses were further checked against data held by the Department of Social Protection to ensure that the children listed in each response are linked to the PPS number given and the relevant survey area.
Late last year, surveys were carried out in five pilot areas and these showed there was parental demand for a change in school patronage in each area.
“Almost two thirds of the areas surveyed as part of this process, including the pilot phase, have shown sufficient parental demand for a wider choice of school patron. We cannot ignore this call for change. We will now be contacting the Catholic patron in each of the areas where we have identified this demand to request they now consider options for reconfiguring schools under their management in order to allow the transfer of a school to a new patron,” concluded Minister Quinn.
Copies of the report will be sent to all primary school patrons in each of the 38 areas. The Catholic Bishop or Archbishop in the 23 areas where demand for change has been confirmed will be asked to submit an interim response within three months and a final response with detailed proposals on divesting a school in six months.
The full report from the surveys is available at www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/Report-on-the-surveys-regarding-parental-preferences-on-primary-school-patronage.pdf