ETB school discriminates against child from Catholic family
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that a child from Catholic family was discriminated against on the grounds of religion because an Education & Training Board (ETB) school gave preference in admissions to children from Church of Ireland families.
Discrimination hurts, and the child was distraught at being refused access to the school. She lived locally, and all her friends got into the school. Many families from minority backgrounds suffer this discrimination all the time in the Irish education system, and there is a lack of understanding of the hurt that it causes.
This case is an example of how the ETBs operate in practice on the ground. They say one thing but their practices undermine what they say. The institutionalised religious discrimination in the Irish education system has managed to hurt another child and family. Minority families are on the receiving end of this discrimination all the time.
ETB school claims they are multi-denominational
This particular school claims in their Admission policy that they are multi-denominational and welcome and respects students from all religions and beliefs. However, the Department of Education lists them on their website as Interdenominational. Interdenominational schools are Christian schools.
Their Admission policy reflects the ethos of the school which seems to be that you can claim to welcome and respect all and then discriminate against some in practice. This is what families deal with when they send their child to an ETB school. They say one thing and mean another thing.
We are aware of other ETB designated Community Colleges that claim they are multi-denominational but have a Catholic ethos. It doesn’t make any logical sense, and the WRC have found the exact same thing.
It seems that the ETBs simply don’t understand what religious discrimination is. They don’t support and promote the principles of equality and non-discrimination on the ground. Instead they undermine this.
Designated Community Colleges
As far as we are aware, in general, ETB schools do not discriminate in access. However, this particular school has always been an exception. This ETB School is a designated Community College. Its ETB has an Agreement with the local Catholic Bishop and the Church of Ireland called a Model Agreement.
The school gave preference in Admissions to children from Church of Ireland families who attended a particular Church of Ireland school in the locality, notwithstanding the fact that it claims that it is multi-denominational and welcomes students from all religions and beliefs.
The ETB said at the WRC that the arrangement of giving preference to children from a particular Church of Ireland school was part of the agreement when the school was set up. They stated that:
“The school has a particular Ethos informed by the tradition of the ETB, Catholic Church and Church of Ireland Faiths. While a multi-denominational school the Church of Ireland ethos and traditions are visible in the School’s calendar. The number of Church of Ireland students was 4 during the 2020/2021 admission to first year. The model agreement in place goes back to the very beginnings of the School and included a key objective to provide Church of Ireland students with an educational environment that respected their tradition and was non-fee paying. It must be understood in that light.”
In a different case at the WRC, it was accepted that a non-designated Community College did have a Christian ethos. You can find that here.
Admission policy cannot logically apply
However, the school’s ethos and Admission policy say that it is multi-denominational and welcomes students from all religions and beliefs. The WRC stated that the Admission policy cannot logically apply because of the religious discrimination that occurred. They stated that:
“I have concluded that section 7(3)(c) or indeed section 7(3)(c)(a) cannot logically apply based on the stated Admission’s Policy of the school not to discriminate based on the Religion of the Student/ Applicant.”
“As the stated policy of the School is not to discriminate in its admission of a student based on Religion of the student or applicant it cannot rely on 7(3)(c) or (c)(a) to rebut the presumption that prohibited conduct continues.”
“For these reasons I determine that the respondent did engage in prohibited conduct as it is the stated policy of the School to be multi-denominational and not to favour any one religious faith or none over one another when deciding who it admits into first year.
The respondent has not disputed the fact that it does give priority to Church of Ireland students and contends that under section 7(3)(c) it is allowed to do so as the objective of the school is to provide education in an environment which promotes certain religious values, and it admits persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others.
There is no evidence in the current documented policy provided at the Adjudication hearing that the School has an objective to provide education in an environment which promotes certain religious values in accordance with Section 7 and so admits persons of a particular religious denomination in preference to others.”
Atheist Ireland will continue to campaign on religious discrimination in the education system. ETB schools discriminate against minorities and are no better than denominational schools.