Readers Blog: Restrictions of Educate Together enrolments

Back in much darker days, when education was a rarity, we were blessed with visionaries who established schools for the downtrodden. Catherine McAuley, Ignatius Rice, and Mary Aikenhead surmounted many obstacles but I doubt if they ever considered putting restrictions on their eager school entrants.

With our Educate Together school here in Tramore alas, that is what is happening — courtesy of the Department of Education. It is being restricted this year to a half-stream intake (13 enrolments instead of 26), in common with four other similar schools in New Ross, Tuam, Trim, and Castlebar. This is fundamentally discriminatory. It is unequal treatment vis-a-vis other schools — it is even unequal treatment compared with other Educate Together schools.

The Department of Education rationalises this stance by claiming that this was the understanding they had with Tramore Educate Together from the get-go. That would not appear to be valid — I have no evidence this was ever applied to developing schools under any other patronage.

We hear a lot of blather from the minister about pluralism and parental choice — but half-stream restrictions are the very antithesis of this. And there is a constitutional right to consider also: In O’Shiel Vs Minister for Education [1999] 2 IR 321, the High Court made it clear that, while the Constitution does not require the Minister for Education to facilitate and fund all parental choices regarding their children’s education, if a “reasonable solution” is available to facilitate the parents’ choices, “the failure of the Minister to adopt it would constitute a breach of the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights”.

In Tramore, we can offer the minister a variety of reasonable solutions. If he believes all he says about choice, it would be reasonable for him to act on them.

Cllr Joe Conway

Roselawn

Tramore

Co Waterford


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