Disclaimer: This blog is focused on Cultism, but we also explore issues related to Education, religion and Human Rights
DI received a response to the article on Apartheid Education by the Director of the National School Trust, John Suttle. We entitle this one Apartheid Education in the Clontarf Buntustan
The ethos of a National School is not simply religious – there is no such thing as a Catholic National School (refer to the spreadsheet on the DOES website) – such a name would never have been allowed (although there have been a lot of Naomh this or Naomh that allowed in recent years, and even “Parish School” – but not yet “Catholic”. Please refer to page 25 of the Clontarf Report.
The proper designation is “a National School under Catholic Patronage”.
(7. National School Ethos
Extract from Section 15.2 (b) of the 1998 Education Act:
It shall be a function of the Board of Management of a School to
uphold, and be accountable to the patron for so upholding, the characteristic spirit of the school as determined by the cultural, educational, moral, religious, social, linguistic and spiritual values and traditions which inform and are characteristic of the objectives and conduct of the school.
1. Ethos and Characteristic Spirit are interchangeable words which are defined by Webster as “the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group,
2. The basic ethos of all National Schools includes equal access for children of all religions.
3. Neither individuals nor regulatory authorities should accept a declared religious ethos of any National School that does not include equal access to children of all Denomination, confessions or religions.
4. The ethos of all National Schools must include the principles of the Stanley Letter which includes primarily the object to “unite in one system children of different creeds”.
5. Ethos as related to schools in Ireland is not defined in law. However the extract above from the 1998 Education Act gives some legislative guidance.
6. Ethos (characteristic spirit) has come to be associated almost exclusively with religion.
7. There is no such thing as a Catholic National School – it is a contradiction in terms. Many National Schools are named after saints like Scoil Naomh Pádraic, Scoil Bhride etc.
However, in many cases, when the history of the school is checked, it will be found that the school is actually Athlone National School or a similar name relating to the location of the school.
8. The Patron has no power to dictate the ethos of a school.
9. Each individual school must get its ethos from its foundation and traditional position in the community.
10. Ethos can only be legally defined by way of evidence – the assertion of school authorities or Patrons does not constitute evidence.
11. It is important that the ethos of a school should be defined as it appears in the Equal Status Act 2000.
12. Private primary schools, commonly attached to private secondary schools, often have a denominational religious ethos – this is not the case with National Schools.
The role of the Patron is quite limited by legislation – the reality of a pervasive influence does not come from law, but from the sort of inappropriate deference referred to by the Ryan Report. The Board of Management (which has independence in law) has much more legal power than the Patron. Again deference is a problem, but not legality.
The idea that the Patron can decide the religious affiliation of an employee is wrong. I know of no case where the Board decided to appoint an employee, and this was rejected by the Patron – of course, in reality, the members of Boards are usually very poorly informed as to their legal position – such that the Chairman and the Principal generally run the Board – parent and community Board members, in my experience, generally act as rubber stamps in important issues, such as staff appointments. The Chairperson is, of course, a Patron appointee.
The legal position as regards religion in schools is much simpler in National Schools – such that our report only deals with National Schools. Our local National School, Belgrove, was built by Col. John Edwards Venables Vernon in 1848. The Vernons acted as patron for a long number of years. The school moved to larger premises on Seafield Road in 1940, where it remains today as one of the largest National Schools in Ireland (1400 pupils). The new premises was proved at no cost by Edward Kingston Vernon (grandson of the former). The Vernons came over with Cromwell, and have remained a staunch Church of Ireland family ever since. Belgrove only came into the possession of the Laurence O’Toole Trust (Dublin Catholic Archbishop) in 1992, after a very dubious legal process facilitated by the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Trusts (see Clontarf Report). We have a great deal of the legal documents relating to Belgrove – there is a great deal of documentation relating to National Schools in the National Archives.
We stick strictly to admissions – because the case is legally and constitutionally very strong. However, the ethos of a schools should always be established with documentation before it accepted as being “Catholic” or “Church of Ireland” etc. Such documentation does not exist for any National School.
John Suttle 087-2482864