Fianna Fáil Press Office
27 January 2016
Need for increasing diversity in school patronage – Clifford Lee
Fianna Fáil candidate for Dublin Fingal Lorraine Clifford Lee maintains that no parent should have to baptise their child simply to get him or her into a school. Responding to numerous queries on the doorstep, he was adamant that all children, regardless of religious denomination should have access to a school in their local community.
“Across the country, there is an increasing mismatch between the current patronage arrangements for national schools and the wishes of parents. While 96% of Irish national schools are under denominational patronage at present and 92 % under Catholic patronage, this no longer reflects the diverse reality of Irish society and parents’ demands for greater plurality in school ethos and patronage.
“We favour the introduction of selection criteria for over-subscribed schools, based on locality and catchment area. Selection rules should be based on two mandatory criteria. Firstly on a sibling first principle, where siblings of pupils currently enrolled would be selected first. Secondly, children living in newly designated school catchment areas would have to be prioritised with access to a school place.
“Fianna Fáil also believes that it would not be against the constitution (or the rights of minority faith schools) to allow schools to give preference to children of their denominational ethos, who are from a catchment area.
“However, we not believe that schools should be able to give admissions to children of their own denominational background from outside their catchment area, in preference to children of a different denomination from inside their catchment area.
“Catchment Areas could be sized according to the availability of schools of different ethos. It is unlikely that this would be unconstitutional. This would mean that catchment areas could be sized according to the popularity of the schools ethos e.g. Presbyterian schools or Jewish schools would have an extremely wide catchment for admissions as there are so few of these schools in the country. This would protect them as Minority denominational schools,” explained Ms Clifford Lee.
“This would mean that a situation could not occur where a child from outside an area could be considered for a school place before a child from the local area, even if the local child is not of the religion of the school/ or is of no religion at all.
“In addition, a new Schools Admissions Appeals Body would also be established within the Department of Education, where parents who suspect that their child has been discriminated against during the admissions process of a school, would have recourse to an appeal and an investigation.”