Patronage system undermines the rights of parents and children

The Patronage system has reduced education to a competition for parental preference. It manufactures consent on the basis of a limited choice. Parents and their children are faced with a choice between a limited number of Patron bodies, and these Patron bodies have control over the application of their human rights in their local publicly funded schools. If Parents do not support the majority limited choice, or lose out in their particular choice, they are left in a position that they must send their children to a school that integrates a particular life view into the state curriculum. It is impossible for parents to opt their children out of an ethos. Publicly funded schools with a religious patronage can discriminate on religious grounds in access.

Eamon Ryan from the Green Party recently asked a question in the Oireachtas on the competition for schools in a particular area in Dublin.

33. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills when the result of the recent patronage competition for secondary schools in County Dublin, Firhouse, Lucan, Swords, Carpenterstown, Castleknock, Malahide and Portmarnock will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32131/16]

The Minister for Education &Skills Richard Bruton responded as follows:-

“In April 2016 applications were invited for the patronage of nine new post-primary schools to be established in 2017 and 2018, including new 1,000 pupil post-primary schools to serve the areas of Firhouse; Lucan; Swords; Carpenterstown & Castleknock; and Malahide & Portmarnock. The closing date for receipt of applications for this process was 8 June 2016. Patrons submitted with their application a parental preference template in which parents have been requested to declare their preference for their child to be educated through that patron’s school model and also their preference with regard to education through the medium of English or Irish.

The assessment process is detailed and rigorous and numerous applications have been received in respect of each of the nine proposed new post-primary schools.

The New Schools Establishment Group, an external independent advisory group set up to oversee the process, is meeting this week to consider the assessment reports. Following the Group’s consideration, they will submit a report with recommendations to me for consideration and final decision. I will then announce who the successful patron of each school is. I expect to receive the Group’s report within the next week.
The assessment reports and the recommendations of the NSEG will be available on my Department’s website following the announcement.”

The Patronage system enables religious discrimination and undermines the rights of parents and their children under the Constitution. The education system should promote and respect the rights of all parents and their children and not just the majority in a particular area. Democracy does not mean that the views of a majority must always prevail and that the rights of minorities are ignored.

The European Court has stated that:-

(f) Although individual interests must on occasion be subordinated to those of a group, democracy does not simply mean that the views of a majority must always prevail: a balance must be achieved which ensures the fair and proper treatment of minorities and avoids any abuse of a dominant position (see Valsamis, cited above, p. 2324, § 27).”

The Patronage system manufactures consent on the basis of limited choice in the granting of public funds to manage schools. The State claims that this system ensures choice for parents in the education of their children; they also claim that this system protects their fundamental Constitutional and Human Rights. How have they got away with promoting this nonsense that has resulted in the right of minorities to freedom of conscience religion and belief being denied n the education system. The Patronage system enables religious discrimination against minority families, it has reduced the rights of minorities in a Republic to a competition where they always lose out.

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