School patron body Educate Together has today responded to comments made by a representative of the Iona Institute on last night's Claire Byrne Live show on RTÉ.
The group, which promotes an equality-based, co-educational approach to schooling, rejected many of the asssertions made by spokesperson Maria Steen on the show.
On air now @normasheahan and Maria Steen are discussing whether the so-called 'baptism barrier' really exists #cblive pic.twitter.com/DeNEWgAJtJ— RTÉ ClaireByrneLive (@ClaireByrneLive) February 20, 2017
"Catholic schools have much greater numbers of children from lone parent families, they have greater numbers of children from lower socioeconomic groups, multi-denominational schools tend typically to be middle-class," Ms Steen said on the show.
Educate Together Communications Manager Luke O'Shaughnessy responded: "It is disappointing that the Iona Institute, through their spokesperson Maria Steen, would so easily reinforce a prejudicial stereotype of the children who attend Educate Together schools as ‘middle-class’ as happened on Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ last night.
"The Iona Institute’s spokesperson quoted selectively from a 2012 ESRI study, commissioned by Educate Together and available on our website.
"This valuable longitudinal study draws from data sets taken almost a decade ago, in 2007/08.
"The intervening years have seen a transformation in Irish society, culturally, economically and socially.
He added: "26% of all Educate Together schools are either in or qualify for the government’s DEIS programme for schools in disadvantaged areas. Moreover, the majority of all new Educate Together schools also operate integrated facilities for children with autism - the highest percentage of any Irish provider."
The body also took issue with Ms Steen's assertion that "most multi-denominational schools did not have any Traveller pupils, Catholic schools were more likely to have greater numbers of Traveller pupils compared to minority faith schools."
Educate Together responded: "Not only do Traveller children attend Educate Together schools, Educate Together schools have been involved with the Irish Traveller Movement's Yellow Flag inclusion and diversity award since its inception a number of years ago.
"A representative from Educate Together’s national office sits on the Steering Group of the Yellow Flag Award."