How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Issues relating to promoting a secular state education and raising children in a non-religious home
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JH
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How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by JH » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:56 pm

I've realised I have a very vague knowledge of how the Catholic Church controls the education system in Ireland.

Can someone explain in a straightforward way;

1) What are the organisation structures in place which allows Church control? (e.g. who does the headmaster report to, what about the board of governors?)

2) Which age level of school is under Church control, Primary? Secondary? Both?

3) Does the Church have input into the curriculum, how does this differ from the 'official' curriculum as set by the Dept. of Education

4) What are the links between the Church and the Dept. of Education?

5) Finances; How are schools funded, does the Church fund schools in any way?

That's enough to get started... :wink:
lostexpectation
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by lostexpectation » Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:17 am

good questions, quick thoughts

mainly primary, it because of the patron system which splits the schools privately to each arch diocese, which allows control

I presume priest chair boards of managements.

have to find out the document where they said religion ethos should permeate all of teaching

i think churches have control through dept of ed acquiescence
Last edited by lostexpectation on Mon Jul 20, 2009 7:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
test
Brian
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by Brian » Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:10 pm

Hi JH,
In answer to your list of questions, I would like to recap some history first and then deal with the issues. I think this is important because I am sick to death of the repeated mantra that the churches were responsible for establishing education in this (or any) country.

The History of church control of our schools is informative. National education was established in Ireland in 1831 on a strictly non-sectarian basis. Ireland got a national education system a generation earlier than Britain ("radical" ideas like this were often tried out in Ireland or Scotland first in case it proved "dangerous"!). This non-denominational system was opposed by the churches almost immediately. The Catholic church had established many schools themselves (mainly to service the growing RC middle class) prior to 1831, but the RC church was never responsible for setting up universal schooling in the country. In fact until the late 19th century (throughout Europe) the RC church was remarkably disinterested in educating the poor and working class. Is was even later before they developed an interest in Ireland, always preferring to focus on the wealthier sector of society. It was the colonial state that introduced universal education. What the churches did was block, oppose, interfere and ultimately destroy the basis of the 1831 system. That arch-reactionary, Cardinal Cullen, campaigned with all his might to overthrow this system. In 1862, noting that 54% of schools were still religiously mixed he described it as "very dangerous… because its aim is to introduce a mingling of Protestants and Catholics". Parents were forced to remove their kids (under threat of excommunication) from the state schools and instead send them to schools run by the church. Eventually, the colonial government of the day caved in, and they agreed to continue funding the schools while they stayed under church control.

With this in mind, to answer your questions:

1. In practice, and as a consequence of the state's abdication of responsibility, each school is run by a Board appointed by the relevant religious denomination and/or order. In most cases this is a board comprised of the local priest, the religious orders, leading church goers, the teachers and sometimes one or two parents' reps. Teachers' salaries are paid by the state, but they report to the Board. Teachers are obliged to ensure they teach the national curriculum, but when that is done they can teach whatever religious (or other) studies the Board chooses. If there are options in the national curriculum the Board can choose too. If the teachers are members of religious orders their salary is paid directly to the order and the teacher receives an "allowance" from the order. The Board is responsible for administering all costs of the schools besides teachers' salaries. A grant is paid by the Dept. of education towards this, which pays for around 75% of the school overheads (I'm using a couple of fairly typical schools I know well as a basis for this assessment). But don't think thats where the church "helps". There are no transfers from the collection baskets to the schools. The short-fall is not picked up by the church, but by parents, usually via a range of ingenious fund raising endeavours, which the school PTA dutifully hands over to the Board to decide what they do with. Rumours abound now that the Department will massively cut this overhead allowance and the parents will be forced to pick up closer to 50% from next year. There's a lot of money involved in this, which is why there is such a huge difference between schools in rich and poor areas. Rich parents can pick up the difference, whereas poor parents haven't a hope. Working parents struggle to do so. This is one of the many hidden taxes.

2. The churches run the overwhelming majority of primary schools (only 30 out of more than 3,000 are non-denominational), and most secondary schooling, as well as a range of hospitals.

3. The current curriculum is set by the Department of Education following advice from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (www.ncca.ie) which is another government sponsored body. The NCCA is made up of reps from teachers unions, parents bodies and the churches. On the surface it should be fine, but the problem is that many teachers and parents body reps are themselves deeply religious, and in their new-found 21st century desire to be "inclusive" (of other religions only) they are unlikely to oppose any religious component of education. Its also well known that there are an unusually large number of Opus Dei types at the Department, so the dominant church has extraordinary control of the personnel at the highest governing body for education.

4. The links should be non-existent, even by the terms by which the existing Department of Education operate. The Religious control the Boards, and the Department sets the national curriculum, pays the teachers salaries, and helps pay for the overheads of the schools. But in fact the links are far more insidious. The personnel at the Department are themselves involved in the defence of the church (via one organisation or another) as I stated in the last point.

5. Finances: As I mentioned in point 1, there is no obligation on the church to pay for anything. However, historically, and for their own reasons, the churches often donated land for the building of a school close to their church buildings. The cost of building the school (after 1831) was generally paid for by the state, unless it was a private school. The churches will claim that they pay indirect costs, like insurance (rarely true), overheads (almost never), building repairs (almost never). The truth is that schools, even the general ones, are a source of revenue for the church. We all now know that the church made a small fortune out of the industrial schools by selling the manufactured goods of the children (estimated value of around €50 a child per day in current money). What is less well understood is that the massive difference between teachers official salaries and brothers and nuns "allowances" allowed the orders to rake in a pot of cash. Furthermore they convinced their parishioners that they had to pay for the building/renovation/upkeep/overheads of the schools, whereas this was paid for by the state from 1831 onwards (you still hear this nonsense that the church has to pay for it all). Where did all this donated "school money" go to? If you consider the dire poverty of this country since 1831, and the exceptional commitment of Irish people to education (like all people struggling out of poverty), the degree of deception involved here is criminal.

From a very angry parent.
DollarLama
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by DollarLama » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:04 pm

Excellent post Brian, thanks for that.

regards
Ben
"Religious belief of all kinds shares the same intellectual respectability, evidential base, and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies." AC Grayling
JH
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by JH » Wed Jul 01, 2009 5:16 pm

Thanks for such an in-depth reply Brian - I'll read it in more detail and get back to you.

In the meantime, want to take over producing the AI Education Policy doc? :P
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by nozzferrahhtoo » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:02 am

Brian,

Thanks muchly for this, it helps a lot with another thread I am posting on too. I would be pleased to hear more from you if you have more to offer on this subject. I am also curious about your credentials and why this is a subject you are well informed on. I get the impression you work for a relevant department. Of course ignore my question if this is too personal!!
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by mkaobrih » Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:46 pm

Brian wrote:Hi JH,
In answer to your list of questions, I would like to recap some history first and then deal with the issues. I think this is important because I am sick to death of the repeated mantra that the churches were responsible for establishing education in this (or any) country.

The History of church control of our schools is informative. National education was established in Ireland in 1831 on a strictly non-sectarian basis. Ireland got a national education system a generation earlier than Britain ("radical" ideas like this were often tried out in Ireland or Scotland first in case it proved "dangerous"!). This non-denominational system was opposed by the churches almost immediately. The Catholic church had established many schools themselves (mainly to service the growing RC middle class) prior to 1831, but the RC church was never responsible for setting up universal schooling in the country. In fact until the late 19th century (throughout Europe) the RC church was remarkably disinterested in educating the poor and working class. Is was even later before they developed an interest in Ireland, always preferring to focus on the wealthier sector of society. It was the colonial state that introduced universal education. What the churches did was block, oppose, interfere and ultimately destroy the basis of the 1831 system. That arch-reactionary, Cardinal Cullen, campaigned with all his might to overthrow this system. In 1862, noting that 54% of schools were still religiously mixed he described it as "very dangerous… because its aim is to introduce a mingling of Protestants and Catholics". Parents were forced to remove their kids (under threat of excommunication) from the state schools and instead send them to schools run by the church. Eventually, the colonial government of the day caved in, and they agreed to continue funding the schools while they stayed under church control.

With this in mind, to answer your questions:

1. In practice, and as a consequence of the state's abdication of responsibility, each school is run by a Board appointed by the relevant religious denomination and/or order. In most cases this is a board comprised of the local priest, the religious orders, leading church goers, the teachers and sometimes one or two parents' reps. Teachers' salaries are paid by the state, but they report to the Board. Teachers are obliged to ensure they teach the national curriculum, but when that is done they can teach whatever religious (or other) studies the Board chooses. If there are options in the national curriculum the Board can choose too. If the teachers are members of religious orders their salary is paid directly to the order and the teacher receives an "allowance" from the order. The Board is responsible for administering all costs of the schools besides teachers' salaries. A grant is paid by the Dept. of education towards this, which pays for around 75% of the school overheads (I'm using a couple of fairly typical schools I know well as a basis for this assessment). But don't think thats where the church "helps". There are no transfers from the collection baskets to the schools. The short-fall is not picked up by the church, but by parents, usually via a range of ingenious fund raising endeavours, which the school PTA dutifully hands over to the Board to decide what they do with. Rumours abound now that the Department will massively cut this overhead allowance and the parents will be forced to pick up closer to 50% from next year. There's a lot of money involved in this, which is why there is such a huge difference between schools in rich and poor areas. Rich parents can pick up the difference, whereas poor parents haven't a hope. Working parents struggle to do so. This is one of the many hidden taxes.

2. The churches run the overwhelming majority of primary schools (only 30 out of more than 3,000 are non-denominational), and most secondary schooling, as well as a range of hospitals.

3. The current curriculum is set by the Department of Education following advice from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (http://www.ncca.ie) which is another government sponsored body. The NCCA is made up of reps from teachers unions, parents bodies and the churches. On the surface it should be fine, but the problem is that many teachers and parents body reps are themselves deeply religious, and in their new-found 21st century desire to be "inclusive" (of other religions only) they are unlikely to oppose any religious component of education. Its also well known that there are an unusually large number of Opus Dei types at the Department, so the dominant church has extraordinary control of the personnel at the highest governing body for education.

4. The links should be non-existent, even by the terms by which the existing Department of Education operate. The Religious control the Boards, and the Department sets the national curriculum, pays the teachers salaries, and helps pay for the overheads of the schools. But in fact the links are far more insidious. The personnel at the Department are themselves involved in the defence of the church (via one organisation or another) as I stated in the last point.

5. Finances: As I mentioned in point 1, there is no obligation on the church to pay for anything. However, historically, and for their own reasons, the churches often donated land for the building of a school close to their church buildings. The cost of building the school (after 1831) was generally paid for by the state, unless it was a private school. The churches will claim that they pay indirect costs, like insurance (rarely true), overheads (almost never), building repairs (almost never). The truth is that schools, even the general ones, are a source of revenue for the church. We all now know that the church made a small fortune out of the industrial schools by selling the manufactured goods of the children (estimated value of around €50 a child per day in current money). What is less well understood is that the massive difference between teachers official salaries and brothers and nuns "allowances" allowed the orders to rake in a pot of cash. Furthermore they convinced their parishioners that they had to pay for the building/renovation/upkeep/overheads of the schools, whereas this was paid for by the state from 1831 onwards (you still hear this nonsense that the church has to pay for it all). Where did all this donated "school money" go to? If you consider the dire poverty of this country since 1831, and the exceptional commitment of Irish people to education (like all people struggling out of poverty), the degree of deception involved here is criminal.

From a very angry parent.
If there was a thanks button here I’d thank you for that.
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by Brian » Fri Jul 03, 2009 2:37 pm

I'd be very glad to help with the AI policy document. I think education (or the control thereof) is by far the most important issue we need to address. Its all well and good to try and remove references to "god" from what state functionaries' say, but education is one of the main areas where the state actually hands over its responsibility entirely to churches. And I can't think of anything more important than the education of our children (apart from running our hospitals, but then they handed that over too). Religious faith is (mainly) formed at a very young age and we need to ensure that this cycle is broken.

You asked about my credentials. I was trained as an historian, taught it for a while, and continue to work with history and heritage, so I know something about that. I am also a parent of two small boys, and my eldest just started primary school. Despite living next to a primary school, my children are effectively non-eligible to attend (not baptised). The two closest Educate Together (the 30 non-denominational primary schools are run by them, thats 0.1%) are both too far away, and massively oversubscribed. Instead he goes to a small CofI school which is the best compromise we could find. I am active with our school's PTA.

So while I'm happy to help with the AI document, its very important we have a teacher's view as well.
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Re: How exactly does the church control education in Ireland?

Post by Feardorcha » Sat Jul 04, 2009 11:23 pm

I stood for election as a parents' representative at my local primary school. The school board has two representatives appointed by the patron (the parish priest), two from the teachers (hired by the parish priest), one elected female parent and one elected male parent.
I put my name forward, there was no meeting, no printed material other than the names in the school newsletter. The votes were supposedly sent in to the head teacher who counted them privately at a time and date unknown. No results were announced and only the winner was notified.
As I was the only candidate by the closing date, the head teacher announced that the closing date was being put back another week and that there was another candidate. This was the candidate who was 'elected'.
My children are the only atheists in the school. End of story.
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