Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has denied a claim in the Irish Daily Mail that he was asking parents to take control of schools from the Catholic Church.
The paper had claimed that Mr Quinn had called on parents to stand for election to school boards to combat the “historical legacy” of dominance by the Catholic Church.
He insisted yesterday that his call, which comes before elections for approximately 3,300 boards of management in the autumn was about the partners in education sharing responsibility for running the schools in a manner that provides all students with the best education possible”.
He paid tribute to the huge voluntary contribution made by over 20,000 members of the outgoing boards who have given their time freely to help create a suitable learning environment for every child and ensure schools run efficiently. "We are very fortunate to have people who are willing give their time and energy to their local schools,” he said.
New Boards will take up office on 1 December 2011. Membership of a Board of Management is designed to reflect all the different interests in the school community (patron, parents, staff, and wider community).
Mr Quinn has previously suggested that “at least 50 per cent” of schools currently run by the Church should be transferred to alternative patrons and that he wanted to see the first schools being transferred by next January.
At the time, Church sources expressed concern at the figure of 50 per cent, and at the timetable being proposed by the Minister.
In April, his Department set up the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism to decide on how many and which Catholic primary school will be transferred to alternative patronage.
The Forum's advisory group is be chaired by John Coolahan, professor emeritus at NUI Maynooth. The other members include Dr Caroline Hussey, former UCD registrar, and Fionnuala Kilfeather, former chief executive of the National Parents Council (primary).
Submissions, from interested parties and from the public, have been submitted to the Forum.
Each of the main groups will be cross-examined. As the advisory panel is independent, it will also question department officials about their priorities. The group hopes to prepare a final report for the Minister by the end of the year.