The Tánaiste has defended the slow rate of the transfer of schools from faith-based patrons and affirmed the right of parents to choose the kind of school they want for their children.
He was responding to an attack from the Co-chair of the Social Democrats, Roisin Shortall, who said divestment was occurring at an untenable snail’s pace, and that it was “wrong that the church is given a choice about the type of education children receive but Irish parents are not”.
Leo Varadkar, however, said that transfer of patronage should be done with consent and when he talks to parents, many of them say they “like the model they have and the way their school works”.
He added that it is important to listen to parents and students, where appropriate, and ask them what model of education they want.
“One will often find that there are children and families from a diversity of backgrounds attending the local parish Catholic diocese school who are not looking for a change in patronage. They like the school and the way it operates and they do not want it to change fundamentally. We need to bear that in mind also. Very often, migrants who come to Ireland want to send their child to the local Catholic parish school because to them that is integration”.
Relatedly, the Tánaiste also affirmed that a school’s RSE policy must be developed “in consultation with school management, parents, teachers and students, as appropriate”. And that, while the ethos of the school should never preclude learners from acquiring knowledge about the issues involved, nonetheless it “may influence how the content is treated.”