THE Christian Brothers yesterday announced its 206-year involvement in the education system will come to an end in September.
The religious order will hand over complete control of 96 schools — which facilitates 35,000 pupils — to the new Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST).
The ERST will take full ownership of its school properties and have responsibility for all decisions concerning the 59 secondary schools and 37 primary schools.
The ERST was registered with the Companies Registration Office on Friday. Chairman of the trust, Pat Diggins, was the interim director of the Marino Institute of Education.
Other members include High Court judge Peter Kelly and ex-president of the European Parliament, Pat Cox.
While ERST will maintain the traditional ethos of the Christian Brothers’ education, it will also have full control over the appointment of boards of management and future directors.
The move was sanctioned at the most recent Irish Episcopal Conference. Mr Diggins said ERST will work with the existing Christian Brothers’ trustees to ensure a smooth hand-over on September 1.
“The establishment of the trust company will ensure a continuity of tradition generated over two centuries by the Christian Brothers.
“As trustees, we are extremely conscious, not only of the tangible value of the network of schools, but equally of the invaluable educational ethos,” he said.
The possibility of a transfer of power had been flagged in recent years and a charter for the trust was launched in 2006.
An influencing factor was the dwindling number of Christian Brothers active in the education sector.
There are 2,700 teachers employed at Christian Brothers’ schools throughout the country. However, there was scepticism about whether the order would be willing to sign over absolute responsibility.
Spokesman for the order, Br Kevin Mullan, said the Christian Brothers wanted to fully embrace the change and the realities of education today.
“The announcement marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for both the Christian Brothers and for education in
Ireland,” he said.
Yesterday, the order said the main teachers’ unions and the Department of Education were aware of the plans.
The Christian Brothers was established in Waterford in 1802 by Edmund Rice, in an initiative to provide schooling for poor boys. The order spread throughout Ireland and into mainland Europe.
Yesterday’s announcement coincided with the feast day of the Blessed Edmund Rice.
ERST will comprise of nine volunteer members and six directors, which will include two Christian Brothers.
The trust will be formally launched at a June ceremony in Dublin Castle.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved