Seamus Mulconry, General Secretary of Catholic Primary Schools’ Management Association (CPSMA), has said that he was disappointed with the Minister’s proposals as they have failed to address in any way the current difficulty in oversubscription being experience in a small number of areas in the State.
Mr Mulconry said, “For the record, CPSMA are unaware of any case of a child being refused admission to a Catholic School solely on the basis of the lack of a baptismal certificate: religious affiliation only comes into play in cases of over subscription, even then, in all cases that we are aware of, children who are not Catholic have been accepted ahead of Catholics due to the sibling rule.
“Less than 6% of Catholic Primary Schools are oversubscribed, and in the greater Dublin area (where the problem of over subscription is most acute) only 17 of the 42 oversubscribed schools were affected by this issue. The simple fact is that the vast majority of unsuccessful applicants are Catholic, and that the issue is driven by a shortage of school places, particularly on the rapidly growing periphery of the city.
“Furthermore, we believe that most of the applicants who have been affected have gone on to be accepted in another Catholic School.
“Oversubscription arises not from a lack of baptismal certificates but from Government failure to deliver sufficient school places for local school needs. The Minister’s proposals do nothing to address that. “
It is important to note that the Bishops, as Patrons, are already on record as saying that a Catholic school should give priority to a Catholic child from the catchment area, then to non-Catholic children from the catchment area and then, and only when this category is exhausted, to Catholic Children from outside the catchment area. This was one of the options in the Minister’s consultation but he has now discarded the consultation process that he himself had set in place.
CPSMA will be interested to see the legal advice, if any, that the Minister received from the Attorney General’s office prior to making his announcement. His proposals to treat schools of different faiths in an unequal manner is unusual and some constitutional issues may arise from them.
Finally, now that the minister has exhausted the last year in addressing an issue that affects only a small fraction of the school going population, it is to be hoped that he will show the same interest in securing the necessary resources from the Minister for Finance to address the serious and growing crisis in funding at primary level.
This issue is now impacting on most of the State’s primary schools and on their ability to deliver the quality of education our children deserve. This resource issue is particularly acute in the area of education for children with special needs.
CPSMA now expects that the minister will begin, at last, to address these serious resource issues.