Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Potential school patrons warned against media battles

The patrons competing to take control of Catholic schools where parents want more choice for their children are being warned not to engage in ‘media battles’ for local support.

A strict code of practice is being drawn up by the Department of Education ahead of parental surveys next autumn in 44 areas where families have little or no choice but to send their children to a religious-run primary school.

It follows concerns about the process over the last two years when patrons have applied to run new schools being set up in areas of population growth. 

But in the latest exercise, where dozens of existing school facilities could be handed over by Catholic bishops to new patrons, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn wants to ensure a level playing field among those applying to take over.

Department of Education secretary general Seán Ó Foghlú said some difficulties and challenges were reported when Educate Together and Co Wexford VEC were competing in 2010 to become patron of a new second level school in Gorey.

Concerns have also been raised around spending by some organisations during the selection process for patrons of new primary schools last autumn.

"There would be limits around expenditure and issues such as that, and making sure that it’s not a matter of who can place the most ads or have air time," he said.

In each of the 44 towns and communities, where there is insufficient population growth to justify new schools being built, parents will be told in Oct and Nov which patrons are willing to take over the existing schools and asked to express a preference.

Mr Ó Foghlú said the issue of patronage is complex and the differences between types of patronage are not that apparent.

Announcing details of the process on Wednesday, Mr Quinn said the sole object is about providing choice and he wants to ensure local discussions are conducted in a reasonable fashion.

No comments: