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Parents to decide who should run primary schools

PARENTS in six Dublin areas are being asked to decide what kind of primary school they want for their children.

The survey seeks to find out the participants' preferred choice of school patron.

It could result in a dilution of the influence of the Catholic Church, which currently controls over 90pc of the country's 3,000 primary schools.

A similar exercise last year lead to the church being asked to hand over one school in each of the five areas surveyed to Educate Together, a multi-denominational body. The locations in Dublin involved in the latest questionnaire are Dublin 6, Malahide, Portmarnock, Rush and Skerries.The neighbouring suburbs of Ballyfermot, Chapelizod, Palmerstown and Cherry Orchard are being treated as one area.

The aim is to establish the level of demand from parents for diversity of school patronage.

Parents of children aged 12 and under can take part in the survey, which is available online at education.ie until February 8.

Some 311 schools are located in the 38 areas. Parents are being asked if they want change a change of patronage and, if so, who they would like to see operating their local primary schools.

The 38 towns and suburbs have stable populations with little chance of any new school opening.

It means that the only way to offer choice is to transfer the patronage of existing schools.

The initiative is in line with the recommendations of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary sector.

In the previous survey, parents in the areas of Whitehall in Dublin as well as Arklow, Castlebar, Tramore and Trim were asked their opinion.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the survey represents a "historic opportunity".

The bodies which have indicated that they would like to become patrons include the VECs, Educate Together and An Foras Patrunachta.

An information campaign by the department in each of the areas began today.

Kildare town was removed from the original list of areas to be surveyed because it already has an Educate Together school and An Foras Patrunachta is to establish a Gaelscoil there next September.

The full list of areas is: Ballina, Ballinasloe, Ballyfermot/ Chapelizod/ Palmerstown/ Cherry Orchard, Bandon; Birr, Buncrana, Carrick-on-Suir, Carrigaline, Celbridge, Clonmel, Cobh, Dublin 6, Dungarvan, Edenderry, Enniscorthy, Fermoy, Kells, Killarney, Leixlip, Longford, Loughrea, Malahide, Monaghan, Nenagh, New Ross, Passage West, Portmarnock, Roscommon, Roscrea, Rush, Shannon, Skerries, Thurles,Tipperary, Tuam, Westport, Wicklow and Youghal.

comurphy@herald.ie