A Fine Gael Dáil colleague of Education Minister Richard Bruton insists the decision of Catholic Bishop of Kerry Ray Browne to lease a school near Killarney to a new patron was in line with local decisions.
South Kerry TD Brendan Griffin was responding to criticisms that the plan to allow Cahorreigh National School, known locally as Two Mile School, re-open as a multi-denominational community national school (CNS) leaves Educate Together continuing to seek accommodation.
Educate Together was selected by parents in the Killarney area in a 2013 Department of Education survey to open a multi- denominational school.
Two Mile School’s enrolment fell to 17 last year and parents did not send children back in September, meaning Bishop Browne was considering its viability.
The department did not answer the Irish Examiner’s offer to respond to Educate Together’s claim it suggested the vacant school as a suitable location for it to move into last October and again in March. Mr Bruton has approved the transfer of patronage for Two Mile School from Bishop Browne to Kerry Education and Training Board (KETB) after being told that its CNS model was selected by local parents.
Mr Griffin put KETB and the community in contact last January and organised a public meeting in Two Mile in March. He told the Irish Examiner that the idea of the school being used as a CNS came up in discussions with locals around the time Mr Bruton publicised his support for the model in January.
Unlike Educate Together schools which do not permit faith-specific teaching or sacramental preparation during school hours, pupils at CNS can receive such instruction if their parents wish them to do so. The CNS model is preferred by the Catholic bishops but Educate Together says they are given undue influence in new plans by Mr Bruton for reconfiguring school ownership. The proposals Mr Bruton announced in January mean a local bishop has ultimate say in what patron he transfers a school property to.
A range of questions was sent to the Kerry Catholic diocese about the process that led to Bishop Browne deciding to lease Two Mile School to KETB for a CNS.
“The Two Mile Community Group explored options for a school at a public meeting held the 2nd of March 2017. The group chose the route forward that resulted in Monday’s announcement,” said its statement.
Educate Together and another patron body, An Foras Pátrúnachta, say they were not asked to put their model forward as an option.
Mr Griffin told the Irish Examiner that the 70 people at the meeting included prospective parents of primary pupils, parents of children previously attending Two Mile School and grandparents, but he could not say in what proportions. He said he had no contact from Educate Together locally and parents who selected it four years ago might have done so because the CNS model was not as well known then.
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