[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Irish Prime Minister, or Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has told pupils at the first Church of Ireland voluntary secondary school to open since the formation of the state to “dream big dreams.” Mr Kenny told the 400-strong student body of Temple Carrig school to “be what you want to be.” He was at the school, in Greystones, County Wicklow, to officially open the school this morning.
“This is a beautiful building, but it’s just a building,” he said. “It is the pupils, their parents and teachers and the staff that make it an educational facility. All of you will make your mark,” Quoting the words of US President, Barak Obama, he told the students: “Dream big dreams. To the children of Temple Carrig, you can be what you want to be. You can be the person you see 10 or 20 years out. There is nothing that can hold you back if you believe in what you want.”
As the Prime Minister opened the school, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, was on hand to dedicate the building in the presence of the students, teachers, government ministers, local members of the Irish parliament, and other public representatives.
“This is the first Church of Ireland secondary school in the voluntary model to be established since the foundation of the State,” a diocesan spokeswoman said. “While it is under Church of Ireland management, Temple Carrig School provides education for the whole community in the Greystones and Delgany area. This makes the school unique in an Irish context in that while it is run by a minority faith, just 20 per cent of the students are from a Church of Ireland background.”
In Ireland, around 60 per cent of secondary school pupils are served by voluntary schools. These are owned and managed by religious communities; but part-funded by the state. The government provides 90 per cent of teachers’ salaries and 95 per cent of other costs. In contrast, comprehensive schools are fully-funded by the state and run by local management boards.
Prime Minister Kenny said that the opening of the new school was an important day in everyone’s lives. He noted that while it was a historic day for the Church of Ireland, the school catered for people of diverse beliefs and attitudes. He told the students that they were living in a world of rapid change but said that the nation could be proud of the quality and confidence of the children of the Republic of Ireland.
Archbishop Jackson said that this day had been “highly anticipated” by pupils, staff, the headmaster, the board and parents and that this anticipation had been shared with the wider community that is the lifeblood of Temple Carrig. He paid tribute to those who put together the application for patronage and those, including the chair of the Board of Management, Garrett Fennell and the principal, Alan Cox, who had brought the project to fruition.
“From the outset, this school has been positive and progressive in being three things: faith-based; Christian in ethos; within Church of Ireland and Anglican patronage.
“In no way has this cluster of values and principles been seen as anything other than the desire to serve the community of membership and the community of extension in this part of County Wicklow.
“It can therefore without inconsistency describe itself as welcoming of children of all faith traditions and of none. It comes as a surprise to many, but this has ever been the Church of Ireland way. It is always our concern to see that a school under Church of Ireland patronage is open and inclusive,” the Archbishop stated.
Chairman of the board of management of the school, Garrett Fennell, said that Temple Carrig represented “an interesting model of education provision” in Ireland. “In a context where much of the popular focus is on moving away from faith based education, here is a brand new faith based school, run by a minority religion which is catering for the educational requirements of a diverse and broad community,” he said.
“Part of what makes this school so unique and special is that our school community is comprised of people from many different faith groups and none – the school is a real reflection of the diverse and vibrant community that we live in.”
He added: “Temple Carrig also demonstrates that faith based schools are inclusive and embracing of difference and diversity. Much of the current debate around patronage in Irish education is very polarised and fails to recognise that diversity and tolerance comes in many shapes and ways. Indeed schools under Church of Ireland patronage have been models for inclusive multidenominational education for decades”.