Some 23 primary schools across the country are set to lose their Catholic Church patronage and will most likely transfer to the multi-denominational Educate Together schools.

The announcement comes following a survey by the Department of Education which questioned parents of students aged up to 12-years in 38 areas across the country. Many parents expressed a preference for an Educate Together patron in 23 of the areas. At present Educate Together operates 65 multi-denominational primary schools around Ireland.

The report comes after the Minister for Education called for an expert group in 2011 to consult with people and make recommendations on how primary schools can become more inclusive of different traditions, religions and beliefs.

The Catholic management of each of the schools has six months to provide a proposal on how they plan to divest them.

“I would hope and expect during that period a suitable school will be identified by them within the various towns and arrangements will be made for the orderly transfer of the patronage of that school back to the Department of Education,” Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said on RTÉ Radio.

The Department of Education estimated that 96 percent of primary schools in Ireland are under the patronage of religious denominations. Approximately 90 percent of these schools are owned and under the patronage of the Catholic Church.

Catholic patrons have welcomed the primary school patronage report. However Fr Michael Drumm, Chairperson of the Catholic Schools' Partnership attention must be given to the “large majority” of parents who expressed no interest in change.

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