Irish parents will shortly begin to vote for who they want to run their local school in a historic new step for Irish education.
The move is intended to end the dominance of the Catholic Church in primary education, handing over some of the 92 percent of the Irish schools it currently controls to other patron bodies.
According to the Irish Independent, the church is in agreement with the Irish government that greater choice is required to reflect growing cultural and ethnic changes and plans to hand over control to other patrons in line with parental demand.
The Irish Department of Education is responding to a demand for greater diversity, acknowledging that it has no plans to open a new school. The five areas picked for the first transitions from religious to secular control are: Arklow, County Wicklow; Castlebar, County Mayo; Tramore, County Waterford; Trim, County Meath and Whitehall, Dublin, while the remaining 39 other areas targeted in the first round will vote in November.
Parents will reportedly be asked to vote in order of preference for the alternative patrons who have expressed an interest in running schools in their areas.
They'll also be asked if they prefer single sex or co-educational schools and if they would prefer an Irish-speaking or English-speaking school.
The Department of Education will conduct its surveys online but there will also be a paper-based option for parents, and surveys must be submitted before November 9.
Where a demand for alternative patronage is identified, the department will explore with the existing patrons the transfer of patronage of schools.
It's not yet known how many of the Republic’s 3,000 Catholic primary schools will be handed over, but Irish Education Minister Ruairi Quinn wants to name the first batch by next June.
Quinn called the move a historic opportunity for parents to reshape the primary school landscape for generations to come.
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