So it seems the Minister for Education’s announcement that he plans to focus on the Community National School (CNS) model has really put the cat amongst the pigeons. Paddy Monaghan, a barrister and member of Educate Equality, and now a long-standing objector to the current education model, has voiced his opinion against the CNS model, citing religious segregation within the school day, as an unforgivable flaw in this type of school.
Further comment to The Times today (Rob Sadlier’s letter) reinforces this opinion in reference to the recent report from the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, which states that segregating children based on religious belief was “socially divisive”. He warns us not to make the same mistakes as were made in Northern Ireland.
However John McCarthy, a professor of History from New York, also wrote to The Times, this time to criticise Paddy Monaghan’s view and to argue that the “baptism barrier” problem could be solved by the establishment of new community national schools, thereby removing the over-subscription issues of Catholic schools.
Dr. Clair Moloney of the Marino Institute had similar objections to the removal of faith formation from the school day and feels the CNS model “endorses the child’s faith or belief as an important factor…influencing her sense of identity and belonging”. She argues the model does not segregate children but allows the school to recognise the individual child’s faith or belief.
Further comment from Dr. O’Grady in Killarney, implying that Educate Together schools exclude traveller children and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds is clearly an example of looking at stats without looking for the reasons. To my knowledge Travellers tend to be quite religious, so it is no wonder they would choose to apply to a denominational school rather than an Educate Together. The fact that parents of pupils at Educate Together schools tend to come from middle to high income families with university level education is also no mystery, as this is the sector of the population that tends to be more atheist, or at least less religious.
I wonder will the government ever create a model that satisfies both sides of the argument? I will not hold my breath. Successive governments have shown an unwillingness to tackle this divisive issue and I don’t think this generation of politicians will be any different.