Hanafin faces legal challenge over multi-faith school

Saturday April 26 2008

EDUCATION Minister Mary Hanafin faces a legal challenge over her refusal to sanction a multi-denominational primary school in an area of huge demand.

The challenge is being taken by Educate Together which says that an unprecedented number of parents had sought places for children in a proposed multi-denominational school in Carpenterstown, Dublin 15.

The group claimed that the minister’s decision not to sanction the proposed school was purely political.

“It is aimed at imposing a new VEC pilot school on the parents in the area without consultation and without any regard to their expressed wishes,” a spokesman said.

“In deciding against the Educate Together school, the minister appears to be acting as a judge in her own case as she is currently the patron of the VEC pilot schools.”

There are currently 44 Educate Together primary schools and a further 12 are opening in September. At present, there are 258 children pre-enrolled for the proposed Educate Together school.

Denied

But a ministerial spokesperson denied the group’s claims. She said that the new VEC model aimed to accommodate parental preferences for religious education as part of the school day — not oppose it.

“If parents in the Carpenterstown area wish their children to attend an Educate Together school they have two choices in the area — one in Castleknock and the other in Castaheany. All parents living in Carpenterstown have an Educate Together school within a two-mile radius of their home.”

“The department is not building an additional school when there is provision in the multi-denominational sector with Scoil Choilm, which opened under the temporary patronage of the Catholic bishop last year to meet demand for places, but is transferring to the new community model this year and in new purpose built premises.”

But Educate Together made it clear that it was unhappy with the VEC model. It said that what was announced by the minister involved the registration of children according to the religious identity of their parents and their compulsory separation on religious grounds during the school day.

“It also involves the preferential treatment of religions considered ‘main’ by the school, which may be illegal under our current equal status legislation,” the group said.

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