Secular body loses legal bid to become Cork school patron

A secular schools body lost its legal battle Friday to become patron of a new Cork primary school.

Mr Justice John Hedigan ruled “as correct and appropriate” the decision by the minister for education refusing an application by Secular Schools Ireland Ltd (SSI) for patronage of the school due to open in Carrigtohill this month. SSI claimed in a High Court challenge it had not been afforded fair procedures by the minister.

The judge said SSI was fully aware of the minister’s requirements with regard to a prescribed curriculum and other specific demands and had failed to meet them. In a reserved judgment, he said the State’s requirements towards any prospective patrons were “vital guarantees” to ensure the proper conduct of the school.

SSI challenged the minister’s decision that Cork Education and Training Board (CETB) should run the school. It sought orders quashing the decision to refuse its application on the basis it was deemed invalid. SSI also sought to quash the decision on the CETB.

The judge said that a commitment to all the minister’s requirements was mandatory before an award of patronage could be considered. The minister had to ensure that any patronage awarded is to persons who will guarantee to meet established criteria and is bound to do so to ensure the proper education of children and the efficient disposition of scarce resources, the judge said.

“No case is made that the criteria are unfair or unreasonable. On their face they appear to be eminently sensible and practical,” he said.


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