The ‘national’ school system
Still denominational and private
in Schools and the politics of religion and diversity in the Republic of Ireland
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Chapter 5 analyses structural developments and the place of religion in the current Irish education system. It also gives an overview of contemporary debates on the denominational and segregated nature of the system. Despite significant religious decline (both in terms of numbers and social influence), the Catholic Church has managed to retain control over the vast majority of Irish schools. While it is now prepared to accept the transfer of some schools to other patrons, it has in the main tried to maintain its influence, developing a discourse of inclusiveness. Teacher and parent organisations and other educational actors have been voices for change (with public opinion polls also showing support for significant change), in contrast to the political mainstream. Even if there have been differences of political inflexion, with an attempt since 2010 at encouraging a diversification of patrons in the name of ‘parental choice’, the Irish State has kept to its historical role as funder of schools managed by private patrons, the current result being a perpetuation of the system along with a relative increase in the number of Educate Together schools especially, raising the issue of a new form of segregation.

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