THE importance of consultation with parents is stressed by the Commission on School Accommodation when it comes to deciding who will be the patron of any new schools that are to be opened.
“A system of establishing new schools must protect and optimise the resources of the state but should not make assumptions regarding the values and choices of parents without proper consultation,” it says.
The expert group which compiled the report, led by the commission, says the principle of parental input into the type of school to be provided should be preserved. It noted the survey undertaken by the Department of Education in Gorey, Co Wexford last year to help decide who should be patron to a new second-level school in the town.
An interview board awarded almost half the total marks on a range of criteria to each of the applicants to be patron, Educate Together and Co Wexford Vocational Education Committee (VEC). While there was little difference in their scores on these criteria, almost two-thirds of preferences were given to the VEC in a survey of parents of 2,895 primary and pre-primary children in the town and surrounding areas.
Five of the interview board’s seven members also served on the 16-member expert group which compiled the report for the CSA on future primary school selection.
The expert group also recommends that a Patronage Advisory Group be set up to take responsibility for recognition of patrons for new schools and changes of patron for existing schools, based on consultation with the relevant parties in each area.
It should have knowledge and experience of the issues concerned and be independent of any existing or potential patron groups, and its role could also include evaluating the performance of a patron and arrangements to remove a patron if they are not performing their role correctly.
The recognition of new primary schools has been paused except in cases of urgent demand since the review was established.
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