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Church of Ireland school principal resigns over inclusivity issue

10 August 2018

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Greystones, Co. Wicklow, in Ireland

Greystones, Co. Wicklow, in Ireland

A CHURCH OF IRELAND school principal has resigned from her post after she alleged that the Board of Management had plans when enrolling new pupils to give priority to families who were actively involved in the parish church and services.

This is strongly denied by the chairman and board of management.

Eileen Jackson, who has been Principal of St Patrick’s National School in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, for more than 20 years, sent an email to parents of the 280-pupil school, which caters for children of many faith backgrounds, explaining the reasons for her decision, which was completely unexpected, sources in both the parish and school have said.

The school was departing from the Church of Ireland tenets of inclusivity and welcome of differing traditions, she said, and was using the legislation which protects state-funded minority faith schools for the benefit of parochial engagement. This, she said, compromised the C of I’s “core values of freedom of conscience, tolerance, and inclusivity”.

In common with other state-funded Anglican schools in the Republic of Ireland, each school has an agreed admissions policy which entitles it to prioritise C of I candidates from within the parochial boundary. This is usually invoked only when the school roll is fully subscribed. The local rector usually chairs the school’s board of management.

In the case of St Patrick’s, about 60 per cent of students are of C of I background.

In response, Canon David Mungavin, who chairs the board, has written to parents expressing his, and the board’s, surprise at the sudden resignation of Ms Jackson.

He said: “I want to give the school community an assurance that St Patrick’s School is not going in any new direction, and has no plans to do so.” The same applied, he said, to the school’s admission policy.

“St Patrick’s National School is, and will remain, a diverse and inclusive school under Church of Ireland management.”

Canon Mungavin said that the board would work to ensure that the transition to a new principal would be smooth and seamless, and wished Ms Jackson well for the future.

To address a system operated by some Roman Catholic schools where baptism certificates have been requested as part of an admission process, the Irish Department of Education is due to legislate banning proof of religious identity as a requisite for admission under the terms of a new Schools Admission Act. The RC church has patronage of 90 per cent of national schools; most of the remainder are C of I.

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