Educating Church and State

The Republic of Ireland’s Education Minister, Mary Hanafin, has announced her intention to amend legislation for the pilot introduction of a new inter-denominational model for primary schools. As the RTÉ report notes -“The current primary school system, though paid for by the State, is private and overwhelmingly controlled by the churches. From September two new inter-denominational VEC schools will open on a pilot basis at the Phoenix Park and at Phibblestown in Co Dublin.” Meanwhile, here, the state model includes provision for Transferor Representatives, of the main Protestant churches, on the board of governors of controlled primary schools [usually 4 out of 9 places] and those representatives have been expressing concern about the Department of Education’s proposals to remove that statutory role.

Rev Ian Ellis, of the Transferor Representatives Council which speaks for the main Protestant churches, said he believed most parents in Northern Ireland wanted their children to attend schools with a Christian ethos. “We want to see schools in the future that have a Christian ethos continuing at their heart,” he said. “That’s what we have at the moment, that’s what the Catholic schools have and that’s what we wish to remain.”

Sinn Fein assembly member Paul Butler, from the assembly’s education committee, said they were aware of the churches’ concerns. “I think the department is taking this on board to see how we can move this forward,” he said.

My view of the role of any church in state-funded education, promoting their Idols of the Cave, should be evident by now.