Camels Passing Through Eyes of Needles

I liked this letter:

The Irish Times – Letters

A chara, – The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, does not see any problem with fee-paying Catholic schools (January 27th). How can he justify religious orders with vows of celibacy and poverty devoting their talents to the provision of private education for the wealthy and privileged? They have deliberately chosen the option of the rich. It seems to me to be a form of blasphemy. Their devotion subsidises private education and makes it available at a reduced cost. They enable those who avail of it to cover themselves with a veneer of piety.Jesus would have been excluded: his mother and foster-father could not have afforded the fees. Wily orders like the Jesuits, under pressure from their own well-meaning but misguided left wing, are aiming to have 10 per cent of the students admitted without fees. Belvedere has already achieved this target. The Labour spokesman on education, Ruairí Quinn, thinks that this is a good idea. In fact, it is quite pernicious. The Jesuits salve their collective conscience, while absorbing a carefully selected group of the intelligent, malleable, “deserving” poor into their elitist system (or so they hope!).

The State should stop subsidising these whited sepulchres forthwith. Why should the bountiful mother of the Ross O’Carroll Kellys get €4 million of taxpayers’ money every year? Private schools would flourish without State subsidy or clerical benediction. They would be clearly seen for what they are. Parents who want private education should pay the full market rate for that education. The diner who chooses to have an expensive evening in Patrick Guilbaud’s or in L’Écrivain does not expect that his or her caviar will be paid for by the widow’s mite.

The Archbishop is concerned that Catholic school identity is at risk. If the Catholic Church abandoned its cynical catering to social stratification, and placed all its resources behind an equitable education system for all the people who wish to avail of it, that identity would be secure and lasting.

– Is mise,

PEADAR MAC MAGHNAIS, Bothar Bhinn Eadair, Báile Átha Cliath 5

Up North, meanwhile, Catholic Grammar schools have used Catholic Schools Week to announce that they will be holding new entrance tests in place of the 11-plus.

It will consist of two “standardised reasoning” papers to be taken probably this autumn. Such testing was scrapped in the north about 15 years ago amid criticisms that children spent their time learning exam tricks.

I have been out on the DENI website looking at enrolment data for post-primary schools. Got the Excel spreadsheet and everything. Fun fact: 9% of children at Catholic Grammar schools are entitled to free school meals. In Catholic Non-Grammar schools, it’s 31%. Overall in Northern Ireland, it’s 6% for Grammar schools and 25% for Non-Grammar schools. So the disparity is greater in Catholic schools than in the NI system as a whole.

UPDATE: That said, maybe that isn’t the best indicator. I had a look at the number of children attending Catholic schools on free meals, and the % of these at grammar schools. The figure is 17%. For Non-Catholic Schools, the figure is 11%, which is worse. The overall figure is 15%.

So maybe CCE isn’t as good at social stratification as I thought. However, the fact that 83% of children receiving free school meals in the Catholic sector do not attend grammar schools by comparison with only 53% of those children not on free school meals, should give you some indication of where its priorities lie.


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January 2009
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