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Plans for schools’ reform attacked


22/12/2008  ::  Northern Ireland  ::  Irish News

A prominent Catholic educationalist has challenged key plans for schools’ reform which include creating a new body to replace the five education area boards.

Fr Patrick Delargy, a former head of the Governing Bodies Association which represents grammar schools, says he has concerns about the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) and political control over the system.

Writing in The Irish News today, the former head of St MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower, Co Antrim, also hits out at plans to replace

the 11-plus, saying a “clamour for comprehensive schooling” was distracting attention from a failure to solve social problems.

Closing “excellent academic schools” he said would “inflict further deprivation on aspiring families”.

Under education minister Caitriona Ruane’s proposals for a post 11-plus system all academic selection will be phased out.

The five education boards and a number of other bodies are also being replaced by the ESA.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools would be relieved of its powers – including employing up to 8,500 teachers – and reduced to an advisory role.

Previously, Ireland’s Catholic bishops came out strongly against the ESA claiming it would radically undermine Catholic education.

It was initially planned that it would not contain any politicians but legislation allows most of the 12-member board to be made up of councillors.

Fr Delargy says he believes Ms Ruane is supporting plans to

replace Catholic school trustees with this new centralised body and would allow politicians to manage the education system at all levels.

The administrator of St Colmcille’s parish in east Belfast claims it is being proposed the Church should “consider surrendering the control of their schools in the interests of state-controlled curricular change, economies of scale and a shared future”.

“The Department of Education expects the hierarchy to cede power to a politicised command and control system. At best that will provide education on the cheap,” Fr Delargy says.

However, Ms Ruane insisted reform is essential to ensure schools are properly supported to deliver education fit for the 21st century.

She also pledged that ownership and ethos of Catholic schools would not change.

“The RPA (review of public administration) will not weaken the position of the trustees,” she said.

“Their role will be recognised and underpinned in the legislation – the trustees will determine the governance and employment arrangements that their boards of governors will operate.”


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