The INTO LGBT+ Group is one of the notable success stories in primary education when it comes to issues of equality. When I became a teacher about 20 years ago, the group was anonymous. At that point, legally, a denominational school could discipline a teacher from the LGBT+ community for undermining its ethos. However, the group has gone from strength to strength and in 2016, the practice of being allowed to discipline a member of the LGBT+ community for undermining a school’s ethos was finally removed in the Dáil.
The group launched a competition a few years ago called “Different Families, Same Love” supported by the INTO. The purpose of the competition is to showcase different family set ups in whatever form of media the school wishes to use – whether that’s posters or videos or whatever. I have been fascinated by the competition results every year since it began. Every year there has been a disproportionate number of schools that aren’t run by denominational bodies that win the prizes.
Statistically, when it comes to competitions in Irish schools, Denominational schools are 24 times more likely than Multidenominational (I’ll use this term to include Educate Together, CNS, a few Gaelscoileanna, and other schools not run by religious bodies) because 96% of primary schools in Ireland are denominational. I decided to check 3 competitions – the INTO LGBT+ Different Families, Same Love; the INTO/An Post Handwriting Competition; and the Texaco Children’s Art Competition. Given the number of schools, one would expect that close to 96% of winners would be denominational schools.
Here are the results of the last 3 years:
It’s fairly easy to see there’s a difference but just in case, here’s a little graph putting all these pictures together.
The question has to be asked as to why the INTO LGBT+ group’s competition bucks the trend? In fact, bucking the trend may be too light of a turn of phrase. Multidenominational schools represent 3 times more winners than denominational schools in this competition. Why would this competition be different to any other schools’ competition?