The Ques­tion Will lift­ing the ‘Bap­tism bar­rier’ open schools?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW -

News that Min­is­ter for Ed­u­ca­tion Richard Bru­ton is plan­ning to re­move the so-called Bap­tism bar­rier for school ad­mis­sion has been greeted with hor­ror by those who fear this could be the slip­pery slope to sec­u­lar­i­sa­tion of Ire­land’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Un­der the new leg­is­la­tion, Catholic schools that are over­sub­scribed will no longer be able to pri­ori­tise chil­dren of the Catholic faith in their ad­mis­sions pol­icy. At the mo­ment, chil­dren of Catholic par­ents have pri­or­ity for school places in cases where a school is over­sub­scribed. With over 90 per cent of Ir­ish schools fol­low­ing a Catholic ethos, this has left non-re­li­gious fam­i­lies – of which there is a grow­ing num­ber – at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage when it comes to ac­cess­ing schools in their lo­cal­ity.

In­deed, many non-re­li­gious par­ents have felt obliged to bap­tise their chil­dren just to en­sure they can get a place in school.

Bish­ops and trustee bod­ies of Catholic schools have op­posed the move, claim­ing it will threaten their ethos, and en­croach on par­ents’ rights to send their chil­dren to a faith-based school.

The Gov­ern­ment is al­ready braced for le­gal chal­lenges to the leg­is­la­tion, which is due to be en­acted in Septem­ber of next year.

Un­der the new leg­is­la­tion, mi­nor­ity faith schools would still be al­lowed to pri­ori­tise chil­dren of their religion.

So, will lift­ing the Bap­tism bar­rier open the flood­gates for a horde of hea­thens in Ir­ish schools? Ac­cord­ing to Sea­mus Mul­conry, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Catholic Pri­mary Schools Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion, there re­ally is no need to re­move the Bap­tism bar­rier, be­cause the pro­vi­sion of new schools will sort out the over-sub­scrip­tion prob­lem.

“The is­sue is lack of school places, not religion,” he said on RTÉ’s Morn­ing Ire­land. “The Min­is­ter an­nounced he is build­ing 16 new schools. He’s solv­ing the prob­lem.” Be­sides, ar­gues Mul­conry, Catholic schools are happy to ac­cept chil­dren of all faiths and none. “If Damien from The Omen turned up, we’d take him in.”

No doubt Damien’s daddy will warmly wel­come the news.

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