Save National Schools.
The Minister for Education must be stopped from signing Deeds of Variation in National Schools. There should be a detailed debate about this matter in the Oireachtas before any changes are considered.
See evience in black and white:
There seems to be an effort underway by the Department of Education and Skills to terminate the National School System.
The deal done with the Catholic Church on child abuse cost the State probably more than €500 million (even with the State taking half of the blame). This present proposal to terminate the National School system would cost the State vastly more.
The Department (and the Minister) seem to be determined to change the leases of all National Schools so that the schools are changed from being National Schools to becoming DENOMINATIONAL schools. The instrument that is proposed is called a Deed of Variation – this allows for an existing lease to be changed. The Deed includes the following “The Present Trustees……..HEREBY REVOKE that part of the……………Lease to the effect that “a National School…………..be maintained upon the Demised Premises”. This is an open declaration of the end of the National School system – without any public debate, and without any Oireachtas approval.
The existing standard National School lease has worked perfectly well for 180 years – the present proposals seek to fundamentally change these. National Schools have always legally been, and legally remain, open to all denominations, regardless of the patronage.
Leases for National Schools are normally 99 year leases between the Minister for Education, the Lessors and the Trustees of the School – the Minister and Department are confused between patronage and trusteeship in references below. These leases provide for the school premises to be used as a National School. This commitment includes the basic two pillars of the National School system (i) children of all religious denominations (and none) must be given equal access to the school, and (ii) religious instruction, if it is provided, must be done separately to allow children to attend the school without attending religious instruction in that school. These rights are expressed in Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution.
The existing standard National School leases do not define any religion for the school – there is no such thing as a “Catholic” National School – there are only National Schools under Catholic, or Church of Ireland, or Educate Together etc. patronage.
The declared intention of the Minister and the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills is to provide “ultimate security for the ethos of denominational schools”. This is very reminiscent of the Michael Woods deal with religious orders when he was Minister for Education. We believe that the religious patrons are quite capable of providing their own “ultimate security”, and should not be inappropriately supported by the State.
It should be noted that the present Patrons of Schools are commonly not the Patrons who founded the schools. Commonly the local landlord, with altruism, founded many local National Schools. Public monies (mentioned in Article 44.2.4), where contributions are made by the public locally, are very common in the foundation of National Schools. Patronage, trusteeship, school foundation and ownership are not the same, and should be treated as different roles.
Please find below extracts from (i) the speech of the Secretary General of the Department of Education and Skills to the Catholic Primary Schools Managers Association on 13th March 2015, and (ii) extract from a reply to a Parliamentary Question by the Minister for Education and Skills on 31st March 2015.
Please find attached (i) a copy of a National School lease for a school under Catholic patronage (note that the term “Catholic”, or any other denomination, never appears on a National School lease), and (ii) a copy of a draft Deed of Variation (note the term “Catholic” appears thirty one times in this Deed).
We would ask that you act immediately to stop any move to change the National School system without full public debate on the matter. Contact the Minister for Education today – seek an open statement on the matter, and ask the Minister to stop all action on this matter immediately.
Please contact us if you require further information on this matter or any other matter.
Irish National Schools Trust
Promoting Religious Equality in National Schools
24A Hollybrook Grove,
(i) 13 March, 2015- Speech by Seán Ó Foghlú, Secretary General, Department of Education and Skills, at the 2015 CPSMA AGM…………………………………….
“ Deed of Variation
The Minister recognises the concerns of Catholic patrons in relation to protecting the ethos of schools.
You will all be aware that there has been ongoing dialogue over the past number of years in relation to the Deeds of Variation. As you know, the objective of the Deeds of Variation is to provide ultimate security for the ethos of denominational schools. I wish to assure you that the Minister is fully committed to achieving this objective.
It is the case that there are complex legal issues involved and the Department has been working with the Attorney General in relation to the matter. There have been some developments since the last CPSMA conference and in that regard we have recently issued further clarification to the Bishop’s Conference and the Catholic Schools Partnership on the position. This, we hope, will serve as a basis to progress discussions on the matter.
We look forward to working with the Bishops Conference and the Catholic Schools Partnership to reach a mutually acceptable solution which will both provide the security required and be sufficiently robust to withstand any potential challenge.
(ii) * For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 31st March, 2015.
Reference Number: 13273/15
Minister Jan O’Sullivan
………………………………………….The Deeds of Variation provided for a variation
on the original terms of a Charging lease or Declaration of Trust, in order to
provide security for the denominational ethos of a school where a patron owned the property.
There was no monetary compensation involved; however the patron had made
property available for the purposes of the provision of education.
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