In April 2018, Opting Out was born with the intention of giving primary schools the opportunity to demonstrate how they accommodate pupils and teachers from minority and non-faith backgrounds. Out of 3,115 primary schools in Ireland, 2,996 of them are run with a denominational ethos.
We wrote to the various management bodies to see how many of them would support the site. By October 2018, Opting Out received the following responses:
- Minister of Education and Skills – Acknowledgement April 2018 but no response as of November 1st 2018.
- CPSMA – No acknowledgement
- General Synod Board of Education (Church of Ireland) – No acknowledgement
- Dublin Talmud Torah – Acknowledgement April 2018 with note to say that it will be passed to the Board of Management of their school. Update: only school refused to co-operate due to “security reasons”
- Muslim Primary Education Board – No acknowledgement
- IPPN – Acknowledgement April 2018. Offer of article in the future, which was published in September.
- INTO – No acknowledgement
- NPC – Refused to co-operate. Correspondence noted that parents should contact all the principals of schools in their area for information (May 2018).
Since then, nothing has changed.
We decided to develop a social media campaign to convince schools to register on the site to show how they accommodate pupils and teachers from backgrounds different to their own ethos.
This is well short of 1% of schools.
Opting Out is not unknown to schools. In September 2018, a full page article about the site was published in the IPPN Leadership+ Magazine, read by over 1,000 principals. Again, through the IPPN, I had many opportunities to make principals aware of the site via their various services. At conferences, I have spoken to many principals about the site and I have directly asked many of them to sign up. Responses have ranged from saying that while they support the aims of the site, their patron body would not support it to complete disregard of it. One of the most worrying responses I heard through the grapevine was a principal who said that he would not support the website because he would not be told by someone like me what he should be doing. Many people in my position would give up. It’s clear that nobody cares enough about people of minority faiths and those without a faith in denominational primary schools.
However, I am determined to keep going. I am going to directly write to all primary schools in Ireland using a mailing list service. All primary schools are public entities and their email details are publicly available. In my email, I will be urging them to sign up to Opting Out. However, I will be not only be tracking whether they sign up or not.
The mailing list has some functionality, which I think will add some important data.
Firstly, it will display the percentage of schools that will open the email. It will also tell me the percentage of schools that click on the link to visit the website. It will also track the percentage of schools that will unsubscribe from my “mailing list” and it will also track how many schools “complain” about the email I’ll be sending.
I aim to send up to 3 emails before the next deadline, which will be the end of this school year.