Republic of Ireland news

Three Catholic schools the first in south to switch to integrated status

Three primary schools in the Republic are taking the historic step of relinquishing their Catholic status
Mairead Holland

THREE rural primary schools in the Republic are taking the historic step of relinquishing their Catholic status to becoming multi-demoninational.

Scoil an Ghleanna and Tahilla National School, both in Co Kerry, along with Lecarrow School in Co Roscommon will reopen this week as state-run Community National Schools.

The schools, which have under 15 pupils each, have taken the decision in part to ensure their continued survival, according to a report by RTÉ News.

They will now provide a multi-belief and values programme, as opposed to a Catholic one.

Preparation for the sacraments, such as Communion and Confirmation, will take place outside school hours.

In Northern Ireland, of the 65 integrated schools, 25 `transformed' from other sectors, none of which were in the Catholic sector.

Now two Catholic schools are trying to go through the process.

The Irish News revealed recently that parents at both Seaview PS in Glenarm and Ballyhacket PS in Castlerock voted in favour of transformation.

They both have a long-standing tradition of welcoming children of all faiths and are involved in shared education programmes.

However, they are both also fighting plans to shut them down.

Clintyclay PS in Co Tyrone was the first Catholic school to attempt transformation, but its bid was turned down by the Department of Education.

It only had Protestant children on its books in two of the 12 years before it made its unsuccessful bid.

Scoil an Ghleanna took the decision to change after lengthy consultation with the community and the Catholic Church.

Its principal Sorcha Ni Chatháin said the school will be strengthened by being run by Kerry Education and Training Board.

This will include administrative support in areas such as human resources, finance, IT and buildings.

She said: "We needed to look at how we were going to keep pupils, and entice others. We are a beautiful school in the most stunning location, and now we can show - formally, on paper - that we are all inclusive."

Parent Gerardette Uí Chéilleachair, whose three children attend Scoil an Ghleanna, said that, as a Catholic parent, she does not feel her children's faith will be threatened in any way.

"I'm absolutely delighted," she said. "As long as there are Catholic parents who want their children to be raised as Catholics then that will happen. That is not the responsibility of schools or teachers."

Parish priest Fr Patsy Lynch believes the move will strengthen Catholicism locally.

"A lot of priests in active ministry in Ireland will tell you that they are not happy with sacramental preparation taking place in the schools," he said.

"They feel it should be taken out because parents are not as involved as they should be. This is what the community wanted and I was happy to facilitate that process."

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