Monday, March 28, 2011

Leave My Catholic School Alone!

As a Catholic parent, with children attending Catholic schools, I find this whole process of "divesting schools" unnerving. All I ever hear is that this bishop or that bishop has welcomed it again, and again. I know it is necessary, but I keep wondering, what does it mean for our family? When will we be consulted? Does the State, or even the bishops care about what we want?

Seven years ago, we chose to send our oldest son to a particular school, our local Catholic parish school. We attend our parish church, and we wanted our children to attend their parish school. I wanted to do the Catholic parents, Catholic children, Catholic parish, Catholic schools, Catholic community, all working together thing. I wanted a crucifix in every classroom, statues of Our Lady, stories of the saints, rosary beads and Mass. Now I'm being told that a "forum" may just turn our school, the school that we choose for our children into a different "type" of school. Excuse me if I am not jumping up and down with enthusiasm!

P.S. I might feel a little more at ease if Ruari Quinn was not the Minister for Education.

Press Release
28 March, 2011 - Minister Quinn announces the establishment of a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector

The Minister for Education and Skills, Mr. Ruairi Quinn TD, today announced the establishment of a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector.

Announcing the establishment of the Forum, Minister Quinn said “it will take a multi-dimensional approach involving consultations with the key education stakeholders, including parents”. The Minister indicated that a formal launch of the Forum will take place before Easter.

The terms of reference of the Forum are to advise the Minister on:
  1. How it can best be ensured that the education system can provide a sufficiently diverse number and range of primary schools catering for all religions and none;
  2. The practicalities of how transfer/divesting of patronage should operate for individual primary schools in communities where it is appropriate and necessary;
  3. How such transfer/divesting can be advanced to ensure that demands for diversity of patronage (including from an Irish language perspective) can be identified and met on a widespread basis nationally.
In undertaking this work the Forum will, in particular, have regard for the following:

The expressed willingness of the Roman Catholic Church to consider divesting patronage of primary schools the current financial constraints within which the State is operating, the need for continued restraint into the future and the requirement in this context to make maximum use of existing school infrastructure in catering for future demands.
The Minister announced that he has appointed an Advisory Group to convene the Forum, to receive and distil the various views and perspectives of participants and to then provide him with policy advice having regard to the Terms of Reference. The Advisory Group will conduct a number of meetings in public and will seek submissions from the public as part of its work.

The Advisory Group is to be chaired by Dr. John Coolahan, Professor Emeritus at NUI Maynooth. The other members of the Advisory Group are Dr. Caroline Hussey, former Registrar and Deputy President, UCD and Fionnuala Kilfeather, former Chief Executive of the National Parents Council - Primary.

 Minister Quinn concluded that “the Forum for Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector is a key education objective of the Programme for a National Government 2011-2016. It will provide a platform for what I believe is an essential debate within the education agenda”. Press Release Ends

List of Bodies which will be invited to participate in the Forum

An Foras Pátrúnachta
Catholic Primary Schools Management Association
Church of Ireland Board of Education
Association of Trustees of Catholic Schools
Educate Together
Gaelscoileanna Teoranta
Irish Catholic Bishops Conference
Irish National Teachers Organisation
Irish Primary Principals’ Network
Irish Vocational Education Association
Islamic Foundation of Ireland
National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education
National Parents Council – Primary

Biographical details of Advisory Group members:
Professor John Coolahan (Chairperson)
Dr. John Coolahan is Professor Emeritus at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He has lectured extensively in Ireland and abroad. He is author of three books, has published over 120 articles in Irish and international journals, and has edited several educational publications. His public service roles in Ireland include - Secretary General of the National Education Convention (1993); Secretary General of the National Forum on Early Childhood Education (1998); and Chairman of the NESF group on Early Childhood Education (2005). He was adviser to the Government on the 1992 Green Paper and on the Green and White Papers on Adult Education (1998, 2000). Professor Coolahan is author of the Irish Country Background Reports for the OECD Reviews on Teachers (2003) and Higher Education in Ireland (2004). He has served on the Governing Authorities of a number of higher education institutions and was a member of the Senate of the NUI. He is a board member of a number of educational and cultural bodies in Ireland, North and South. At international level, Professor Coolahan has been a consultant to the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the World Bank, and the OECD, for whom he has led a number of international educational reviews.

Dr. Caroline Hussey
Dr. Caroline Hussey is a graduate in Biochemistry from UCD (1962). Having completed her PhD in Trinity College Dublin (1966), she worked in Trinity and Harvard University before returning to UCD as a lecturer in the Department of Industrial Microbiology in 1973. She was appointed to the office of Registrar and Deputy President in 1994. She retired from UCD in 2004 having completed her ten year term of office. Caroline Hussey was a member of the UCD Governing Body/Authority of UCD from 1978 to 2004. She was a member of the Senate of the National University of Ireland from 1981 to 2007. She chaired the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment from 1995 to 2000. She represented the universities on the “Points Commission” and on Teastas. She was Deputy Chairperson of the National Qualifications Authority from 2001 to 2009. She has been a Board member of the Irish Universities Quality Board since 2006. She represented UCD on the Board of the Central Applications Office from 1994 to 2004. She is a member of the Irish Federation of University Teachers since 1974 and served as UCD Academic Staff Association Chairman from 1984 to 1987, as Honorary Secretary of the Federation from 1978 to 1981 and as President from 1988 to 1991. She was appointed by the Minister for Health in 1994 to the first Expert Group on Hepatitis C. She was a member of the Dangerous Substances Advisory Council from 1981 to 1989. She was chairwoman of the Interim Board for Occupational Safety and Health from 1986 to 1989.

Ms. Fionnuala Kilfeather
Ms. Fionnuala Kilfeather trained and practised as an architect. She served at local school board and parent association level and worked as a volunteer to establish the National Parents Council - Primary in South Dublin. She was elected chairperson of the national organisation. She was subsequently employed as chief executive of the National Parents' Council - Primary. She has served on many education and child related committees and boards including, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the National Educational Welfare Board, the Education Sector Performance Verification Group and the New Schools Advisory Committee. She recently worked as chairperson of the initial Special Education Appeals Board. She was a board member of the Children’s Cultural Centre, the Ark, and a founding member of the Children’s Rights Alliance.


Fr Gabriel Burke C.C. said...

This is just tampering with the system.What the education system needs is a complete overhaul. The Dep. of Education has far too much power. I welcome diversity in education but not at the expense of Catholic education. Competition is good and I have no doubts that as in other countries there will be many Catholic schools oversubscribed. The Government should think outside the box. Look at our neighbors in Britain and Norway. Their idea of academies would allow much more diversity.

Caroline McCamley said...

The bishops have given the Department of Education too much power. The Church should be controlling this process. A bishop should have been on the Advisory group. These are Catholic schools. There is loads more that I would like to say, but very little of it charitable.

Fr Gabriel Burke C.C. said...

You are right about the Bishops giving too much control but this all started at the foundation of the State. Until 1922 there was a committee for national schools. The first thing the free state government did was abolish it and put the working of national schools into the hands of the dept.
I always admired Blessed Edmund Rice for not allowing the Brothers join the national school system.He foresaw government interference it is a pity the Brothers after his death joined the NS system. One of the obvious results was the increase in Corporal punishment which Blessed Edmund only allowed in extreme circumstances.

Patrick said...

What can we do about this (before it is too late)? My wife and I are expecting our first child. Shouldn't we have a say in what happens to our Catholic schools?
By the way, I think Scoil Aonghusa is a Parish school (for what that's worth). It certainly used to be - Bishop Lennon was the founding Patron.

Caroline McCamley said...

Yes Scoil Aonghusa is a Catholic school. There is a new Gael Scoil on the south side of Drogheda, An Bhradáin Feasa. I think it has been open for just 4 years, it is multi denominational.

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