Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister Kevin Humphreys this morning launched the Labour Party’s plan for equal access to education.
Speaking at the launch in Shellybanks Educate Together, Dublin, Tánaiste Joan Burton commented: “For the Labour Party, equality is the keystone of what we believe. To ensure every child has equality of opportunity, to ensure every child has the chance to achieve in life, equal access to school is vital.
“Over the last five years, the work we have done to build greater equality in education is significant. But while we have made a lot of progress, there is still a lot left to do. We will deliver 100 new multi-denominational schools by 2021 – doubling the current number. And for the longer term, we will publish a White Paper to build on the report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector.
“In parts of Ireland, there is emerging evidence that some parents feel pressured to baptise their children against their own beliefs, just to secure a school place. Labour is proposing to bring this situation to an end. We will amend the Equal Status Act, to ensure that publicly funded schools prioritise children from the local community, rather than focusing on their religion.
“In the 1990s, Labour convened a National Convention on Education, to get the views of everyone involved in education and set out an agreed agenda for reform and investment. That Convention led to the drafting of the Education Act which has governed our school sector since 1998.
We believe that now is the right time to repeat that exercise. So we will establish a new National Convention on Education, to report within 12 months on the long-term priorities for reform and investment in the education sector.
Minister Kevin Humphreys added: “The key question is – do people take a bet on Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein or Independents who are promising the sun moon and stars but have no intention of going into Gov ernment.
“Or do they support Labour – we have a proven track record of delivering change. Who will amend the equal status act and end the practise of baptism to get a school place? Who will ensure we double the number of multidenominational schools? Who will ensure every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential in a tolerant and progressive society? Labour will.”