New legislation would damage faith schools

New legislation would damage faith schools


Proposed legislation before the Oireachtas would seriously undermine the right of faith schools to protect their ethos if it passes without amendment.

The Education (Amendment) Bill 2012, which was introduced in the Seanad in early January, removes the right for school patrons to agree before a teacher is redeployed from another school.

In effect, this would mean that faith-based schools would be powerless to block the appointment of a teacher who is hostile towards the ethos of the school.

This is despite the fact that in other legislation, the right is clearly enshrined for faith-based schools and other religious institutions to ensure that employees and perspective employees do nothing that would undermine the religious ethos.

However, the new legislation being proposed by Education Minister Ruairí Quinn removes the need for schools to provide agreement.

The explanatory note provided by the Department of Education indicates that while it will consult on the issue, the agreement on the patron will no longer be required.

While the legislation clearly has implications for Catholic schools, the schools of the minority Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities would likely be affected to an even greater extent.

If the legislation is adopted by the Oireachtas, schools run by the minority faith communities would be powerless to ensure that teachers transferred to their schools are sympathetic to the ethos.

A senior Church source told The Irish Catholic that ”there is a great deal of unanimity” among the Churches and faith communities on the issue.

”We are obviously concerned from the point of view of Catholic schools,” the source said, ”but the feedback we are getting from the other faith schools is that they would feel even more vulnerable since they find it hard to find teachers that are au fait with their ethos in the first place.”

It is understood the faith school communities are concerned that if the legislation proceeds it may well undermine the current exemptions from equality legislation that allow the schools to defend their ethos.