Parents vow to withdraw children from sex education class given by Catholic group
Protest over plan to use Catholic agency at Castleknock Education Together school
A protest outside Castleknock Educate Together National School over the planned use of a Catholic agency in delivering a day-long sex education class.
A protest outside Castleknock Educate Together on Tuesday evening drew a crowd of dozens of parents who protested over the use of the Catholic agency Accord in delivering a day-long sex education class for fifth and sixth class pupils.
The Educate Together national office has distanced itself from the school and said it did not agree with the use of any religious groups to deliver sex education.
It has pledged to write to all schools under its patronage to ask them to ensure that sex education is delivered in a way that is “consistent with its ethos and free from religious bias”.
Graeme Carter, the parent of a junior infant at the school, said on Wednesday he and many other parents were prepared to withdraw their children from class for the day if the school pressed ahead with the use of Accord.
He recently set up an online poll of parents opposed to the visit of the Catholic agency. On Tuesday it had almost 170 signatures.
“We chose to educate our children because of its equality-based, multi-denominational ethos which treats all children equally,” he said.
“We are not anti-Catholic or anti-religion, but we want objective sex education for our children. Bringing in Accord goes against everything Educate Together stands for.”
He said Accord did not deal with LGBT issues, which was an insult to gay parents at the school and gay teachers.
Castleknock Educate Together did not respond to queries on Wednesday, while Accord directed media queries elsewhere.
In an email to parents last week, the school said a board of management sub-committee – including parents and staff members – had examined the delivery of sex education.
It said following research and contact with sex education facilitators, Accord was deemed the most suitable on grounds such as experience, availability and delivery of the curriculum.
In a follow-up message on Monday, the eve of the protest, the secretary of the school board said it had received an offer of an alternate provider to deliver the core lessons of the sex education programme.
As a result, it deferred a planned parents’ meeting that was due with Accord on Tuesday evening.
A member of the parents’ association, Leisha McDonald, said parents were deeply frustrated at how the issue had been handled and said there were long-standing issues over the delivery of objective sex education at the school.
She said parents felt they were being kept in the dark and informed about the use of Accord only last week, though the decision was made on March 26th.
Ms McDonald said parents in the meantime had organised for an alternative provider for sex education and were planning to withdraw their children from class and bring them to a local community centre instead.
Educate Together’s head office, meanwhile, said the contracting of external agencies by a school was a matter for the board of management of an individual school.
However, it said it believes it was not appropriate for a religious-run organisation to deliver sex education in the context of an equality-based Educate Together school.
“To this end, Educate Together will be writing to all schools under its patronage to ask them to ensure that relationships and sexuality education is delivered in a way that is consistent with its ethos and free from religious bias,” a spokesman said.
He said the national office was “currently looking at all options in its capacity as a school patron to support the school community involved”.