Catholic primary school in Dublin switches to multidenominational patronage

St Mary’s in Dublin 7 is first Catholic school to come under Educate Together patronage in State as part of pilot programme

A primary school in Dublin city centre is to become the first Catholic primary school in the State to change to Educate Together patronage.

This transfer of St Mary’s Primary School in Dublin 7 has come about as part of the Government’s plan to support the transfer of schools from religious to multi-denominational patronage, where demand exists for such a change.

St Mary’s was one of a number of schools in the Dublin Archdiocese consulted during the 2022/23 school year as part of the Government’s “reconfiguration” pilot programme.

It involved a consultation process with the St Mary’s school community, conducted by a Department of Education-appointed facilitator, and the Archdiocese’s education secretariat.

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In an initial stage, the school community opted to change to multi-denominational school patronage. Following this, the school community then expressed a preference that the school become an Educate Together school.

Almost 90 per cent of the 3,600 primary schools in the State remain Catholic in ethos, while just 5 per cent – about 170 – are multi-denominational.

Efforts to transfer patronage away from religious-run schools over the past decade or more have proved slow and, in some cases, divisive.

The Government is at risk of missing its target of ensuring there are 400 multi-denominational primary schools – about 12 per cent of all primary schools – by the end of the decade.

In accordance with the wishes of a majority of the school community at St Mary’s, Archbishop Farrell wrote to Minister for Education Norma Foley confirming his intention to transfer patronage from Monday, April 15th.

He said the school principal, Eadaoin Kelly, and the teachers and staff of St Mary’s School were very dedicated to the education and pastoral care of the pupils.

“I wish them blessings as they begin a new chapter in their service of the pupils, the parents and guardians of the school,” he said.

“It is also an opportunity to acknowledge the service that the Christian Brothers and Religious Sisters of Charity gave to the education of so many generations of pupils in the original primary schools in St Joseph’s Parish, Berkeley Road, before the amalgamation that established St Mary’s School.”

Emer Nowlan, chief executive of Educate Together, said the she was delighted to welcome the “vibrant inner-city school community” into the its network.

“We are very conscious of St Mary’s long history as a successful Catholic school, which has always adapted to the changing needs of its local community, and we appreciate the support of the current patron and the local parish for this process,” she said. “We look forward to working with parents, staff and pupils, and the local community, to support a smooth transition.”

Eadaoin Kelly said the change was part of embracing the “rich diversity” of the community.

“The children are at the centre of all our work and we are responsive to their needs. Through the reconfiguration process, our school community recognised that equality-based patronage is the best fit for the diverse families we serve. We will continue our inclusive, restorative and supportive practice as an Educate Together school and look forward to sharing and learning with and from other schools in the network,” she said.

Yasmine Othman, a parent of children in third and fifth classes, said it was a positive step into the future of Irish education.

“It should have an exceptional step-by-step influence as we move forward and develop our young people into every aspect of life in a modern Ireland. We look forward to being part of Educate Together and this exciting new adventure,” she said.

Ms Nowlan said patronage transfer is likely to be attractive to communities outside the main urban centres, where there is little prospect of a new school being opened, under current Government policy.

“We are excited about the opportunities this transfer opens up for communities all around the country,” she said. “Up to now, most of Educate Together’s growth has been through the new schools process, so that families outside our main cities have lost out.

“The option to choose an Educate Together school shouldn’t depend on where you live, and we hope that the department’s new reconfiguration process will enable school communities in other areas who want to join our network to do so.”

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