By Susan Gately - 20 May, 2016
A new group, Faith in Our Schools, is campaigning to change the admission policy in Catholic schools to allocate ten percent of places to children, including un-baptised children, who don’t belong to the faith community of the school.
Spokesman for the group, Patrick Treacy SC, said it would be a voluntary scheme in schools and not a ‘final solution’.
The problem of over-subscription of schools only applied nationally to 1.6% of schools, he said, with that percentage rising to 6.39% in Dublin.
“We are trying to balance two things here,” Mr Treacy told RTE’s News at One.
“We want to respond to the very understandable sense of injustice which certain parents have who do not subscribe to the Catholic faith but [who] feel that they are being forced to send their child to a Catholic school, while at the same time we want to protect the integrity of Catholic education and enhance the ethos of Catholic schools in this country.”
Faith in our Schools suggests that where there is an over-subscription, up to 10% of the places should be set aside specifically for children who do not belong to the faith of that school.
“That would ensure that the whole problem of parents feeling that they have to almost pretend that they have an engagement in Catholic faith, would be removed,” said the Senior Council.
Mr Treacy said the long term goal was to move towards pluralism in Irish education with denominational schools, multi denominational schools, and non-denominational schools.
“The programme for government provides that by 2030 there will 400 new multi denominational and non denominational schools and we are entirely in favour of that because one of the benefits for those who want to protect faith based education [is that] if we have greater plurality, it will allow Catholic schools to be truly Catholic schools and to bring out Catholic teaching and principles.”
He stressed that the solution would be a temporary one and as it was a compromise would not result in everyone being happy.
“The reality is that this proposal could lead to a situation where certain Catholic children who come from Catholic families cannot get admission to the nearest Catholic school. On the other hand there are going to be other people who are going to say that this proposal doesn’t go far enough.”
There were two core issues, said Mr Treacy – one, admission to schools, the other – the ethos, the religious education conducted in the school.
“The only way to resolve the second issue is to create a plurality of schools,” he said.
Yesterday, the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, announced the opening of three new schools in Dublin – two under the patronage of Educate Together, the third under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta which has 62 primary and 5 secondary Gael Scoileanna.
The religious ethos of the AFP schools varies. Most of its Primary schools are Catholic (35). Of its five secondary schools, two are Catholic, two multi-denominational and one inter-denominational.
Faith in our Schools believes that each school, through its board of governors, or board of management, should decide on a case by case basis how to implement the scheme they are proposing.
It will be up to the school to decide what non-Catholic pupils do during RE classes.
“That position already pertains. It is a matter that each school deals with on a day to day basis to ensure that the right of a child not to be instructed in religion if they do not want it, is fully respected,” said Mr Treacy.