66% of new primary schools to be multidenominational

TWO-thirds of primary schools opening their doors for the first time in September will offer multidenominational education in a reflection of growing demand for schools not run by the churches.

Education Minister Mary Hanafin yesterday gave recognition to 18 new mainstream primary schools for funding and eligibility for buildings from her department. Most of them are in urban areas where local schools have had trouble coping with demand for places, particularly from children of migrant families, in recent years.

The multidenominational organisation Educate Together will act as patron to 12 of the schools and four special schools have been approved. Only three new schools next September will be under the patronage of the local Catholic bishop, one each in Dublin, Cork and a Gaelscoil in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

Another three Gaelscoil under the patronage of all-Irish schools body An Foras Pátrúnachta are planned in Rush, Co Dublin, in Edenderry, Co Offaly and Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Ms Hanafin refused the applications for a new Educate Together school in Carpenterstown, Co Dublin, as a pilot primary school under the patronage of Co Dublin VEC is planned in the same area.

“However, given the anticipated continuing increase in primary enrolments in the area this does not preclude the approval of such an application at a later date,” she said.

She also turned down the application for recognition for a new school in the Curragh as the Department is still assessing the proposal by Intercultural Interdenominational Primary School Ltd to act as a patron body.

The new schools will qualify to have teachers’ salaries paid by the state and, although most will operate initially from temporary accommodation, they will be eligible to seek sites and school buildings. The application process requires patrons to show there is sufficient demand in the area and that there will be enough pupils into the future to warrant funding.

Integration Minister Conor Lenihan yesterday praised the role taken by Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin in piloting an enrolment system to cater for non-Catholics next autumn.

Two schools under his patronage in Clonsilla and Porterstown, where not enough places were available for all applicants in recent years, will set aside a third of junior infant places for these pupils.

Mr Linehan said the department has responded quickly to the extra demand from newcomer families and their children.

“I’m not suggesting for a minute everything is perfect. We need to work on this and the different patrons, including Archbishop Martin, have indicated a flexibility around enrolment,” he said.

“As Primate of Ireland he has given a clear lead in his own archdiocese. Other bishops will respond in different ways according to pressures and challenges, but obviously it’s good example,” said Mr Lenihan.

Where the new schools will be

Educate Together schools: Carlow town; Carrigaline and Midleton Co Cork; Drogheda, Co Louth; Belmayne, Dublin 13, Swords, Skerries and Lucan, Co Dublin; Greystones, Co Wicklow; Kincolgan-Clarinbridge, Co Galway; Maynooth, Co Kildare; Wexford town.

Catholic patronage: Belmayne, Co Dublin (Archbishop of Dublin); Gaelscoil in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan (Bishop of Clogher); Rochestown, Co Cork (Bishop of Cork and Ross).

An Foras Pátrúnachta: Rush, Co Dublin (Catholic); Edenderry, Co Offaly (Catholic); Greystones, Co Wicklow (inter-denominational).

Ability West: Special schools for pupils with severe and profound learning disabilities in Ballinasloe, Carraroe and Tuam, Co Galway.

Cope Foundation: Autism school.

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