Choice. This is the word most used to combat my argument that we should scrap the patronage model. When it comes to education, it seems that almost everyone thinks they should have a choice of the flavour of school their child should go to. I honestly can’t understand why this would be. I don’t get to choose which fire service comes to put out the fire in my house according to my beliefs. I don’t get to choose which jail I go to if I commit a crime. I don’t get to choose which doctor operates on my heart if I have a cardiac arrest. The point I’m making is that all the above services would indicate that they all generally do the same job no matter which facility you go to. Schools are the same. They’ll even say the same themselves. If you asked a Catholic school what the difference between the curriculum they deliver and, let’s say, an Educate Together school, they would struggle to answer. The National curriculum is the same whatever school you go to. Having a patronage system which is basically led by pluralism, that is, you get to choose a school according to your preferred religion, is bound for failure because it is impossible to achieve.
Even on a practical basis it can’t work. Read the following article to see how.
Ultimately, we need to remove the various patron bodies and just have one provider of education. We need to make a decision on what that looks like but the main things it should have in common would be:
- They are in agreement with human rights
- The government fund them directly
I haven’t mentioned some of the smaller patron bodies that haven’t religion as the thing that makes them different, patrons such as Saplings, Scoil Sinéad, the Steiner Schools, etc. I would argue these patron bodies shouldn’t exist either. Most of the tinier patron bodies tend to work around Special Educational Needs. These schools should be catered by the main system with extra supports. Alternative educational models like Steiner, Sudsbury and Montessori may have to argue their case to be a viable state-funded system of education within the same resources available.