Press release from Citizens to Separate Church & State (CSCS) and Irish National Schools’ Trust (INST)
Date: 12 February 2016 (for immediate use)
Inequality in education – Demands for reform of National Schools posed to Political Parties and Groupings for General Election 2016
There has been much media coverage recently of the scandal of baptismal certificates being used as a religious test for admission of young children into our National Schools. The personal stories from affected families have been published in the national media. We know Nikki Murphy’s (son Ruben), Paddy Monahan’s (son Cormac) and Roopesh Kumar Panicker’s (daughter Eva), and more stories. Although Eva has now been admitted to a National School it is some 6 km away from the family home and being under Roman Catholic patronage there is no separation of the periods of religious instruction and faith-formation from the secular curriculum as required by Rule #54 (The Rules for National Schools, 1965).
Suddenly the new Irish like Roopesh Kumar Panicker are asking questions of Irish society it has been happy to brush under the carpet. People have been willing to have a child baptised to get them into certain schools. Suddenly there is a demand to stop these baptisms and find a more equitable way to address education in this country.
Of the election manifestos that have been published so far only the AAA/PBP grouping and Renua propose any meaningful reform.
Citizens to Separate Church & State (CSCS) and Irish National Schools Trust (INST) have joined forces to seek the following reforms in primary education from the political parties and groupings now that the General Election has been declared for 26 February.
- The review of Rules for National Schools # 68 (recently rescinded by Minister O’Sullivan) & 69 and follow-through with legislation requiring the separation of the periods of religious instruction/faith-formation to outside of the formal school day as required by existing Rule #54; providing easy access for parents to seek remedies and with penalties for non-observance by trustees, patrons and boards of management; reform teaching training and materials to reflect this new reality;
- Codify terms such as ethos, religious spirit, denomination (Islam is not a denomination), religious education, religious instruction, creed, etc. These terms are not coterminous and are used varyingly in the constitution and legislation without definition;
- Reform what is called the Primary School system and restore the constitutionally protected National School system by going back to the founding precepts contained in the Stanley Letter of 1831, with its fundamental requirement that the period of religious instruction/faith-formation must be outside of the secular timetable periods (as per Rule #54);
- Require all church-controlled primary schools to sign-up to a Charter setting out that their trustees, patron and board of management will operate the school as a National School open to all local children and in accordance with Article 44.2.4 of our Constitution; This will be a condition of continued state-funding and with penalties for non-compliance;
- The so-called Rules for National Schools are but a travesty of regulations since they were not issued as a Statutory Instrument as required by the Statutory Instrument Act, 1947. They date from 1965 and are no longer available as a printed publication. Furthermore they have been extensively modified by the issuing of Circulars (ministerial Directions). We demand the codification of the Rules as part of this reform and bring them up-to-date with the Circulars that have been issued by successive Ministers. But first of all make the Rules compliant with our constitution and legislation as well as international human rights norms.
The Constitution Review Group Report of 1996 (Chaired by Dr. K. Whittaker) called for the modest reform we seek:
“Yet it seems implicit in Article 44.2.4° that a school in receipt of public moneys cannot insist on a policy such as admitting only co-religionists as pupils, and the practice of an integrated curriculum would appear to be at variance with this guarantee.
In summary, therefore, the present reality of the denominational character of the school system does not accord with Article 44.2.4°. The situation is clearly unsatisfactory. Either Article 44.2.4° should be changed or the school system must change to accommodate the requirements of Article 44.2.4°.”
This anachronistic and unconstitutional way of delivering education is likely on-course to cost the State €M in compensation claims that will arise in the near future when, for instance, some parent of a child in a school or adult, who was schooled in the primary school system, claims that he/she was subject to religious indoctrination in the classroom due to the fact that was impossible for the complainant child to prejudicially not receive the unwelcome material in the classroom. [Constitution Article 44.2.4] Unknown costs may await the State due to this unconstitutional proselytisation and breaches of the UN Convention on the Child. Also if Tusla can’t address the most basic needs of children what will happen if there is a need to pay out compensation?
Our solution is for the State to revisit the original National School system (Stanley Letter of 1831) so as to avoid the expense of building new schools to suit every faith/belief system in every corner of the land. The state cannot afford that solution finding it difficult already in providing the funding for a natural population increase in the school-going ages when it is strapped for revenue. Our solution eliminates inequality at a stroke and opens up every type of National School to local children irrespective of their faith or belief. Each one becomes a neighbourhood school as originally intended.
Dr. Mike McKillen: 087-2314 613
Mike Garde: 087-239 6229