Ruairí Quinn seeks parents’ views on religion in primary schools amid plans for lessons about atheism
First school transfer from Catholic to multidenominational status agreed
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn: “Many schools are already doing a good job in catering for children from different cultural, religious and belief traditions. I also want to hear about these good practices.” Photograph: Alan Betson
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will today initiate a consultation process on religious and cultural inclusion in primary schools.
The move comes as an agreement was reached on the transfer of the first Catholic primary school in the State to become multidenominational and to move out of Catholic Church control.
A deal was agreed last week for the former Christian Brothers’ school on Basin Lane, near Dublin city centre, to be taken over by Educate Together, a multi-denominational education provider.
The eight-week consultation process also occurs as Atheism Ireland announced its plans to develop a course about atheism, for primary level, to be piloted at Educate Together schools.
The Minister’s consultation process is aimed at parents, urging them and other interested parties to make submissions about catering for inclusion and children from different cultural, religious and belief traditions and to cite good examples of how schools cope with inclusion.
Leaflet for parents
The process is in co-operation with the National Parents Council for primary schools and its chief executive, Áine Lynch, will attend today’s announcement with the Minister. The council will facilitate the distribution of a leaflet specifically for parents, to parents’ associations across the State.
The process is part of Mr Quinn’s response to the report of the advisory group to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the primary sector and is expected to inform the Minister’s white paper.
The advisory group dealt with divesting of patronage of certain schools by the Catholic Church and it also made recommendations about ensuring schools, especially standalone schools catering to entire communities, were as inclusive as possible.
Recommendations included accommodating students with various belief systems and cultural traditions, and dealt with issues such as equitable enrolment policies; the constitutional right to opt out of religious instruction; establishing school policies on the conduct of religious and cultural celebrations; and ensuring denominational school boards of management reflect the diversity of the local community.
Mr Quinn and Ms Lynch believed it would be a chance for parents to have their say and to share their views with the department.
The Minister would be strongly encouraging parents, teachers and all those with an interest in this area to use the opportunity to make a submission. “Many schools are already doing a good job in catering for children from different cultural, religious and belief traditions. I also want to hear about these good practices,” he said. The deadline for submissions to the Minister is November 22nd
Atheism Ireland announced at the weekend its plans for a primary school course about atheism. The organisation insisted the lessons “will teach about atheism, not teach atheism”. The initial project, to be piloted at Educate Together schools, will involve 10 lessons aimed at one of four age groups at primary level and will be taught “in an objective, critical and pluralist manner”.