MORE than two centuries of direct involvement by the Christian Brothers in Irish education has ended with the handing over of its 96 schools to a lay trust.
While yesterday’s hand-over to the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) has been planned for a number of years, it formally marks the end of active work by the order’s trustees.
The 59 second level and 39 primary schools have 35,000 students and their educational ethos is now the responsibility of the ERST, named after the order’s founder who set up his first school for boys in 1802.
Brother Kevin Mullan of the Christian Brothers Trustees said the hand-over was a symbolic gesture causing reflection on the tradition and achievements of more than 200 years of the order’s involvement in education.
The transfer of responsibilities is part of a growing trend among the various religious orders to step back from day-to-day management of schools, because of falling numbers of religious as well as changing focus in their missions.
Sean Haughey, Minister of State at the Department of Education, said the efforts of all orders to establish trusts securing the future of their schools are consistent with their commitment and contribution to education over a long period.
While the Christian Brothers and other orders have been the subject of negative publicity in recent years, as reports of abuse of pupils by former members emerged, their historic role as educators is hugely significant.
“Irish society is greatly indebted to the Brothers for their dedication and commitment to learning. In many cases, they provided an academic education to disadvantaged boys who would not otherwise have received it,” Mr Haughey said.
The ERST will take over the running of the schools from the beginning of the next school year in September.
“We have accepted the challenge to ensure the continuation of a tradition of educational excellence and equality of access established by Blessed Edmund Rice in 1802,” said trust chairman Pat Diggins.
The other board members include former European Parliament president Pat Cox, Mr Justice Kelly of the High Court and Dr Danny O’Hare, founding president of Dublin City University.
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