Representatives of Catholic parents have expressed frustration that they have been excluded from key discussions between the Department of Education and other stakeholders about issues as vital as getting children back to school.
The Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Association (CSSPA) is the representative body for parents with children in Catholic secondary schools in Ireland, and they promote those interests at both a local and national level. The CSSPA say this means that 340,000 parents have no voice at the table.
Sean O’Riordan President of the CSSPA expressed “disappointment and frustration” that his body – which represents 50% of secondary schools in the Republic – is not represented at the talks.
“We have written to the minister [for education] on numerous occasions and are very disappointed that our letters have not been acknowledged,” Mr O’Riordan said.
Longford-Westmeath Senator Micheál Carrigy brought this issue to the Seanad on Monday, saying he’s “concerned” that the voices of parents, particularly the parents of children in the schools of his own constituency, have not been heard.
“At present, no post-primary school in my county is being represented by the National Parents Council that is in the talks. In fact, 85% of schools, or 612 out of 726, accounting for 340,000 parents, in either the Catholic Secondary Schools Parents Association or the ETB Schools National Parents Association are not part of the National Parents Council at present, which is a worrying situation,” Senator Carrigy said.
Senator Carrigy made the Oireachtas aware of the fact that the elected directors of the CSSPA have been denied access to meetings and are not being informed of what has been discussed.
Speaking to this newspaper, the senator said the issue “needs to be addressed”.
He added that the lack of representation of all parents voices “at the most critical time ever of the discussions in the education sector in the history of the State” needs to be dealt with “immediately”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education did not respond directly to queries about the exclusion but said: “It is understood that, up until recently” the CSSPA was a constituent body of the National Parents’ Council Post-Primary.
“The Department has been informed that the boards of the National Parents Council Post Primary and of the National Parents Council Primary have agreed to work together to progress plans to form a new National Parents Council representing all parents in order to strengthen the voice of parents from early years right through to the end of second level education.
“A single representative body for all parents of Irish schoolchildren will be able to provide advice and services to all parents and engage effectively with all key stakeholders to ensure that the parents’ voice in education is strong,” the spokesman added.