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Maynooth Post Primary Debacle: Minister Quinn Responds to my Dáil Question

In the Dáil | 26th November 2013

Below is the transcript of an exchange between myself and Minister Ruairí Quinn earlier today regarding the patronage of Maynooth Post Primary School. You can find a pdf version of all the questions I have asked the Minister to date at this link.

School Patronage

Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Education and Skills if he intends to change the status of a school (details supplied) from that of a multidenominational school to that of a Catholic ethos; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the school is not regarded as a denominational school; if his further attention has been drawn to the fact that the school is seen an inclusive school that welcomes all needs, all creeds and none; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that there are no church representatives on the board of management; the role the board of management and the VEC play in changing the ethos of an existing school; in the event that the school is now designated a Catholic school, the knock-on effect this will have on enrolment policy in terms of priority given to children of a particular faith; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50300/13]

 

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Maynooth post-primary school currently has 1,300 pupils.  It is a very successful school educationally from the point of view of inclusiveness and it is a unifying force within the town.  The decision was made recently that its footprint was too small and it is to move to a new educational campus.  The decision was made to create a second school – a community college – but also to change the ethos of the post-primary school from that of a multidenominational school to that of a Catholic school.  Who has the power to make that decision?  Is it the Department, the board of management, the VEC, the parents or a combination of these?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: The school to which the Deputy refers is a non-designated community college under the patronage of the local education and training board, as the VECs are now known.  Non-designated community colleges have a multidenominational ethos and cater for pupils of all faiths and belief systems.

The Department is not in receipt of any application from the patron to change either the patronage or the ethos of this school.  I understand that while the school historically had the services of a Catholic chaplain provided by the Archdiocese of Dublin, this has not been the case in recent years.

I also understand that the faith background of pupils will not be a factor in any way under the enrolment policies being developed for both this school and the new post-primary school being commenced in the area in question.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: I spoke with the CEO of the VEC in respect of this because a number of parents contacted me who were concerned about what they understood to be a re-designation of the school as Catholic with the new school being a multidenominational school with an intake from a variety of different sources, some of them outlying schools.  The only conclusion I could draw from the conversations I had was that there had been a re-designation.  However, the Minister is clearly telling me that this is not the case and that the school will continue to be a multidenominational and inclusive school and that the new school that will stand side by side with it will have pretty much the same ethos.  Is this what I am to understand from the Minister’s reply?  If the ethos is to be changed, who has the power to do this because, obviously, the nature of the school would fundamentally change if it was to cease being a multidenominational school?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: The current system pertains to where the Department identifies the need to replace an existing school or build a new school.  If the existing patron of an existing school applies for and is granted moneys for the building of a new school, the patronage will stay as it was previously.  Where a new school is to be provided because of the growing population, the Department identifies the necessity in absolute terms as to the provision of space.  It then invites patron bodies to express an interest in running that school.  My role in respect of the new schools establishment group is to ensure the existence of two things: a diversity of choice in respect of the patronage and ethos and manifestation of parental preference.  If there are existing schools and if parental choice for a new school of a different patronage is manifested by the patron group, and there are rules and concerns about how that should function, that is only way in which it can be decided.  A school cannot unilaterally change its ethos or patronage without getting clearance from the Department of Education and Skills.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: I thank the Minister for providing two new 1,000-pupil schools in Maynooth.  Is he aware that the agreement reached between the parents in Maynooth and the Minister concerning the common enrolment policy has been effectively set aside by the VEC, which has produced two separate enrolment policies?  Is he aware of the disappointment and anger felt by parents regarding this decision?  Will he intervene to ensure that his decision stands in both the letter and spirit of that agreement between the Minister and the parents?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: I am not aware either officially or informally of such a change.  It has been brought to my attention in this House by both Deputies from the constituency.  I will make my enquiries.  The arrangement that was made in response to a local expression of community interest was the best that could be made that met the desires of the maximum number of people.  If both Deputies are telling me that this has been unilaterally changed and that they have received complaints to that effect, I will make enquiries.

 

 

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Posted by on November 26, 2013. Filed under Education,homepage,In the Dáil,Kildare,Latest News,Maynooth,Parliamentary Questions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.