Nearly 100 years after the rising, agents of a foreign state control our schools
Nearly 100 years after the 1916 rising, which supposedly led to Irish independence, the Vatican-run Catholic Church controls the vast majority of our publicly funded schools at both primary and second level. The Irish State cedes control of education to the interests of Patron bodies. As the Catholic Church is the Patron of the vast majority our National schools, they control the Boards of Management of these publicly funded schools.
The Catholic Church can appoint two Representatives on the Board of Management. They also have a veto over parents that are elected to the Boards of Management. The State claims that this is the will of the people. They are claiming that it is the will of the people in a Republic that the agents of a foreign state (the local Bishop), can veto the appointment of parents to the Board of Management of their local publicly funded school. The Local Bishop can also veto the appointment of the two teacher representatives on the Board of Management.
In addition to this veto over parents and teachers to the Board of Management, the Board is obliged to uphold the ethos of the Patron and is accountable to the patron. The Board is obliged under the Education Act sent to all policies to the Patron for approval.
One of those policies is the Admissions Policy. We all know that the Equal Status Act has exemptions for schools with a religious ethos, to give preferential treatment to co-religionists. They can also refuse access if they believe that a five year old will undermine their ethos.
Does the control end here? No, it does not.
If you want to work as a teacher chances are that you will only get employment in a school with a religious ethos given that over 90% of schools are religious schools. The Vast majority of schools require teachers to have a Catholic Certificate in Religious studies before they will employ you; you are also obliged to uphold the ethos of the Patron.
In this country if you want to get a job as a teacher your best chances are to pretend that you are Catholic as the Employment Equality Act gives exemptions to schools with a religious ethos.
Schools can and do integrate religion into the state curriculum. That has not changed even with the recent removal of Rule 68 of the Rules for National schools. It is part of the ethos of the Catholic Church to integrate religion into other subjects and the daily life of the school. In addition the primary school curriculum obliges schools to promote the moral and spiritual development of all children and bring them to a knowledge of God. In the primary school curriculum spiritual means belief in a higher being.
In a recent Document on Advancing School Autonomy the Department of Education & Skills outlined these issues, they said that:
“While, as noted above, the operating rules for schools are largely set by the State, the ethos espoused by the trustees/ patrons can inform aspects of how those operating rules are acted upon in schools”
So this Republic of ours funds the education system, sets the operating rules and gives legal exemptions from equality law to schools with a religious ethos. The agents of a foreign state can inform aspects of how those operating rules are acted upon in schools, they can veto the elections of parent to the Board of Management and can discriminate on religious grounds.
This is how the Holy See describes our publicly funded National schools:
“The Holy See promotes and encourages the system of Catholic schools, which are not State institutions but nonetheless have a public function. The educational activities are carried out in accordance with the Catholic school’s own authority and responsibility under canon law, and pursuant to the laws of the respective States in which they operate.”
We fund this system. Our taxes go to pay for this. Nearly 100 years after the rising, we hand control of our education system to (in the main) the agents of a foreign state.