Parents in Knocknaheeny in favour of boys and girls being educated together face opposition from the local clergy.
Parents in a new housing estate in Knocknaheeny in Cork are seeking a say in their children’s schooling. The Knocknaheeny Education Action Group surveyed 200 of the estate’s 600 households.
The survey showed that 61% of parents wanted coeducational primary schools and 32% did not. The parents would also like to have a say on the management of the school boards. The survey also found that 75% of parents felt children of different religions should attend the same school.
The Education Action Group decided to push for coeducation only, however they have met with resistance from the local clergy, who put doubts on the motives and accuracy of the survey findings.
People interviewed in Knocknaheeny are confused about the motives of the Education Action Group. Many parents are in favour of coeducation, but they also want their children to be taught in a school with a Catholic ethos.
The Very Reverend Canon O'Connor, administrator of the Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne (North Cathedral), does not accept the results of the Education Action Group's survey. He carried out his own survey and his results show that people want to see boys and girls schooled separately. His surveys shows 27% of people supported a coeducational school, 44% wished to have boys and girls separated and 29% said they did not wish to comment or did not know.
The parents in the Education Action Group dispute the Canon's findings.
One Knocknaheeny resident says Canon O’Connor paid her a social call and while they had a chat about the school, she was not aware she was taking part in a survey. Even though she is in favour of a coeducational school, she did not displease a priest, so she was ambiguous in her responses.
Two Knocknaheeny residents are clear they do not support the Education Action Group because the clergy have told them the group does not want religion in the school. The Knocknaheeny Education Action Group deny this. One woman is not convinced because,
The priest is coming out and telling us you know really, and what the priest really says goes you know.
Another woman agrees that a priest would not lie to them, but she understands the church does not want another group involved in the running of schools locally.
Planning permission for two separate single-sex schools is being held up by a group of parents who want a single coeducation school. Meanwhile, 1,300 children are in need of schooling.
A ‘Frontline’ report broadcast on 20 July 1979. The reporter is Eddie Barrett.