Belfast Telegraph

Catholic body wants schools pilot

Pilot schemes should be set up to assess the transferral of Catholic schools to non-denominational bodies, church representatives have said.

The Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP) raised concerns over controversial plans by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to transfer 50% of its 3,000 primary schools to other patrons from January.

The group said in areas of the country where premises are no longer viable as Catholic schools, lengthy talks must be held within local communities to plan for greater diversity of school provision in that area.

"This must be planned locally and based on respect for the rights of parents and all other stakeholders, including local parish communities," it said.

"If sufficient demand for a school under different patronage can be demonstrated then all of the stakeholders should work in partnership towards this goal. It would be helpful if some pilot projects could be undertaken where all the modalities associated with a change in patronage could be tried and adjusted as necessary."

In its position paper on the future of Catholic schools, CSP stated new voluntary secondary schools should have equal funding and that its patronage is decided on demand.

However, the umbrella group that provides support for all of the partners in Catholic schools in the Republic of Ireland maintained Catholic education is more than just schooling and had nothing in common with indoctrination, or brainwashing a pupil.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the paper was a positive contribution to what is shaping up to be a very engaging discussion and he looked forward to developing this important debate in the weeks and months ahead.

"The Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector which I have established, will be formally launched later this month," he said. "I believe (this) statement by the Catholic Schools Partnership will contribute to providing a platform for what I see is an essential and informative debate within the education agenda."

Elsewhere, Paul Row, chief executive of Educate Together which runs 58 multi-denominational schools, said it plans to publish its own documents when it is clear how the national forum will operate.

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