Dept. of Education release plans for new school divestment programme

The Department of Education has released plans to divest 150 Catholic schools over the coming years and transfer patronage to multi-denominational or non-denominational patronage.

The Education and Training Boards have been given the responsibility to determine which areas are in need of such a school and which type of school should be provided. The ETBs plan to survey parents of pre-school children to ask what their schooling preference would be. Parents of current school goers will not be surveyed and will have the choice to either stay on the in school being divested, or move their children to another Catholic school when the time comes.

However the ultimate decision of which school in an area will be transferred and the new patron to be chosen, will lie with the bishop. It is widely expected that the bishop will agree to using the Community National School model, as this type of school allows for faith formation during the school day.

Educate Together have voiced their disapproval with the proposal and have claimed it is “unfair and unworkable”. They have also stated that the ETBs are unsuitable for managing the project as they have vested interests in setting up Community National Schools, for which they are currently patrons. They have also criticised the decision-making role given to the Church above and beyond that of the parents, who will be sending their children to the new school.

Minister Brouton has proposed the government will lease the school buildings from the Catholic Church, which could see bishops receiving €10,000-€20,000 per school per year in rent. Original plans for divestment under Ruairí Quinn promised the divestment process would not result in a bill for the taxpayer, however Minister Brouton has proposed that a lease agreement could be one method which might actually see some schools being transferred in the near future.