Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has published a bill to end single-gender school admission policies. Deputy Ó Ríordáin said the time has come to bring Ireland’s education system more in line with international norms.
“The fact that so many of our schools are still separated by gender sends the wrong message to children at a young age about gender equality. At a local level, parents are questioning the status quo with most having a preference for mixed gender schools where possible,” he said.
“Schools are supposed to reflect the society that they serve. The Department of Education has not given sanction to any new single gender school since 1998 – making mixed gender schools already effectively the policy of the Department. This Bill is about addressing the legacy of single gender schools and move to fully gender integrated schools within 10 years at primary level and 15 years at secondary level.
“Ireland stands almost alone with our gender segregation system and we are out of kilter with the rest European world. While the conversation is rightly happening about the nature of gender equality in our society, education must be a feature of this.
The proposal has sparked a debate for the medium term as there is little chance of it becoming law. A possible left-wing coalition after the next election may give the idea some impetus.
Many principals from the sector defended the status quo and said that parental choice and separates spaces for women and girls are current talking points.
At the moment 38 per cent of girls and 30 per cent of boys attend a single sex secondary school.
The Irish Times, in an editorial, backed the new campaign to end single sex schools saying: “Our schools should be inclusive and reflect the wider community by offering all young people the same opportunities. Rather than promoting gender segregation, State-funded schools should strive to teach a diverse body of students to work together and respect each other.”