Education and training boards have rejected claims of a conflict in their involvement with surveys of parents in areas where they may seek to become new school patrons.
The parents of pre-school children in one area under each of the 16 ETB’s administrative region are to be surveyed about the need for more diversity of primary school patronage.
The plan is to then also have consultations with parents and staff of existing local schools, which are mostly under Catholic patronage, before plans are made for the live transfer of schools to a new patron.
This approach is being promoted by Education Minister Richard Bruton over the model attempted in the past five years, as very few schools amalgamated to facilitate transfer of a building to meet local parental demand for multi-denominational schools.
Educate Together, a multi-denominational patron, said it welcomes work to provide more diversity. But it raised issues with the survey process, particularly the fact the 16 selected areas had been selected by local ETBs, who may themselves also be applying alongside Educate Together or others to run the schools as patron.
As ETBs act as patron for community national schools, Educate Together believes there is “a clear conflict of interest which could invalidate the process”.
ETBs’ representative group Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) said protocols to be followed in the identification phase of the reconfiguration process were drawn up by the Department of Education, and local childcare committees will be in charge of delivery, collection and validation of surveys.
“The main function of the ETBs in this phase is the identification of an area and analysis of the data returned to them by the childcare committee,” said ETBI general secretary Noreen White.
She said further measures taken to ensure transparency in their dual role will see the ETBs’ administrative section manage this first phase of the process: “The ETBs will only act in their role as patron of community national schools in phase two, and this will be managed by the education section in each ETB.”
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