Minister Foley announces commencement of arrangements in  number of pilot areas aimed at increasing number of multi-denominational primary schools

Published on: 11 March 2022


Minister for Education Norma Foley TD has today announced that arrangements are now being put in place in a number of towns and areas of cities that have no multi-denominational primary schools to identify potential schools and to engage with school authorities, school staff and the school communities with a view to agreeing on a transfer of patronage and change of ethos, where there is sufficient demand for this.

 

An information pack for school communities and parents setting out some general and practical information relating to transfer of patronage is also being published today.

 

Minister Foley said: “I am delighted to announce that arrangements have been agreed on a process to identify potential schools for a transfer of patronage and change of ethos, in a number of pilot areas.

I acknowledge the significant contribution that the Catholic Church has made, and continues to make, to the Irish education system. The Department and the Church recognise that there is a need for further progress in terms of visible and tangible change to provide more options of multi-denominational provision for parents.

 

“Accordingly, I am delighted that agreement has been reached on a process which will support meaningful engagement with school communities in the pilot areas in order to provide more multi-denominational options where there is demand for this. 

 

“The learning from these pilots will inform the process in other areas of the country going forward. I thank the Irish Episcopal Conference Council for Education for their engagement in this regard and the relevant Bishops for their commitment to engage and co-operate fully with my Department in seeking to facilitate a more diverse school patronage in the pilot areas.”

 

The Department of Education and the Council for Education of the Irish Episcopal Conference (representing the Catholic patrons) have been engaging for some time in relation to progressing the Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity Process. This has involved reviewing learnings to date and developing agreed arrangements to explore reconfiguration opportunities in a number of towns and areas of cities that have no multi-denominational provision at present as part of a pilot arrangement. These agreed arrangements are reflected in the information pack being published today.

 

The Schools Reconfiguration for Diversity process, supporting transfers of schools to multi-denominational patrons in response to the wishes of school communities, aims to facilitate more availability of multi-denominational schools across the country. 

 

The Reconfiguration process involves existing schools changing their patron and may also involve a change of ethos (for example, a change from a denominational (religious) ethos to a multi-denominational ethos). When a school transfers from the patronage of one patron to another, the school remains open (with the same roll number and operating from the same school property), with staff and pupils remaining in place.

 

The Council for Education and relevant Bishops have confirmed their commitment to reconfiguration and their willingness to engage and co-operate fully with the Department of Education in seeking to facilitate a more diverse school patronage in these towns and city areas. The pilot areas are:

-          Arklow

-          Athlone

-          Cork

-          Dublin

-          Dundalk

-          Galway

-          Limerick

-          Youghal

As part of this pilot process, the Department of Education will make available a number of independent facilitators to work with the school patron and relevant school authorities at a local level:

 

-          to progress the reconfiguration pilot initiative;

-          to assist in identifying potential school(s); and

-          to engage with stakeholders including school authorities, school staff and the school community

with a view to agreeing on a transfer of patronage and change of ethos, where there is sufficient demand for this.

 

To assist school patrons and school communities, the Department of Education has published a guidance pack, setting out some general and practical information relating to transfer of patronage which may be useful for:

 

·         Parents/guardians, pupils and school communities and;

·         School authorities and staff where reconfiguration/transfer of patronage of a school is being considered or implemented.

 

This information pack is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/811e2-schools-reconfiguration-for-diversity/

 

The learnings from the process in the pilot areas listed above should provide a pathway forward on the process for providing multi-denominational options for parents in other towns and areas of the country going forward. 

 

School communities that may be interested in exploring a transfer of patronage should engage with their school patron in the first instance. 

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