Education report: rights body backs diversity in schools

At the announcement of the Irish Human Rights Commission report on education in Dublin yesterday were, from left, Dr Maurice Manning, commission president; Éamonn MacAodha, chief executive; Sinéad Lucey, legal officer and Prof William Binchy, commission member. Photograph: Dara MacDónaill

PATSY McGARRY, Religious Affairs Correspondent

DIVERSITY IN Irish schools was “the overarching recommendation” to Government by the Irish Human Rights Commission in its document Religion and Education: a Human Rights Perspective, published in Dublin yesterday. It makes the point that this should also apply to schools at secondary as well as primary level.

The State, it said, “should ensure that there is a diversity of provision of school type within educational catchment areas throughout the State which reflects the diversity of religious and non-religious convictions represented in the State”.

This would “ensure that the needs of faith (including minority faith) or non-faith children in schools can be met”.

It said “a review of the experience gained in relation to diversity of school patronage from the introduction of the VEC community national schools, and the development of Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools should also inform this process”.

Introducing the document, commission president Dr Maurice Manning said it received 60 submissions from individuals and organisations which would be published on the commission’s website, authors’ permission allowing.

A “heartening thing” arising from the submissions was the sense that this was a problem “we can collectively resolve”, he said. A voluntary commitment by the Government to implement commission recommendations would go a long way to showing it was serious about meeting Ireland’s human rights in this area, Dr Manning said.

Commission member Prof William Binchy said if the State retained the present model of patronage in schools, significant changes would be required “to meet human rights standards” and needed “to occur now”.

Denominational terms, or otherwise, in describing schools should be defined in primary legislation, ministerial regulation or under the Education Act, Prof Binchy added.

The Irish Times – Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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