Bruton announces plans for more multi-denominational schools

Education and Training Boards will be tasked with identifying areas where there is a 'demand for diversity'

Bruton announces plans for more multi-denominational schools

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The Education Minister has announced plans to provide more multi-denominational and non-denominational schools.

Richard Bruton has previously said the Government hopes to have 400 such schools by 2030. 96% of schools are currently under religious patronage.

28 areas have schools slated for amalgamation and closures, but only 10 have so far been transferred to a multi-denominational system.

Under the new plans, Education and Training Boards (ETBs) will identify towns and areas where 'there is likely to be demand from families for greater diversity'.

Individual boards will work with school services, and discuss possible transfers of existing schools with landowners.

A second 'implementation phase' has also been announced, which sets out the process for the transfer of patronage when there is a 'demand for diversity'.

Speaking to Pat Kenny, Richard Bruton said: "The issue is to help communities come to a point where there can be an agreed transfer.

"So it isn't coming down to some rigid, headcount 'bean counter' in Marlborough Street going down - this is about bringing communities with us."

"Transparency and cooperation"

In a statement, Minister Bruton explained: “This new process for supporting transfers of schools to multidenominational patrons, in response to the wishes of local families, is based around principles of transparency and cooperation.

"We recognise the massive contribution that existing patrons have made to their communities over many years, and also the equally major contribution that local communities have made to developing their local school."

He added: “Where the need for a transfer to a multidenominational patron is identified by surveys, the existing landowner, in cooperation with the local school community, will decide what multi-denominational patron to transfer to."

The Educate Together group has welcomed 'any practical and effective steps' on the issue of patronage of schools.

However, it also says it is disappointed that it has not been asked to offer any input into the plans announced today.

Educate Together CEO Paul Rowe argued: “Educate Together is concerned that the new process suggests that a candidate body has been charged with running the selection process and there appears to be no robust process whereby the wishes of parents define the choice of school.

"The wishes of parents must be central to any new approach to addressing the need for change - their wishes cannot be ignored or sidelined."