Primary schools to have to teach religion under new curriculum

Plans may prove controversial as teachers worried about ‘curriculum overload’


Primary schools will be required to set aside teaching time for new classes on religion and ethics as part of planned changes to the national curriculum.

But the plans may prove controversial among some parents and teachers who are worried that an expanding curriculum already contains too many subjects.

The new “religion, beliefs and ethics” classes will be separate to existing faith-based classes in denominational schools, which typically take up about half an hour of the school day.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment says the curriculum is aimed at ensuring all children have the opportunity to learn about the lives, values and traditions of members of the wider community.

It has invited schools and parents to give their views as part of a consultation process launched on Tuesday.

The new curriculum will not be aimed at nurturing the belief or practice of any one religion, according to the council.

Instead, it will focus on learning about the major forms of religions, traditions and worldviews of people around the world, including secular beliefs.

The council says this learning will help children develop empathy with people of diverse religions and beliefs.

In addition, the curriculum will include education in ethics, focused on making choices and decisions in a way that considers the effect on others.

This will include learning about the dignity and freedom of humans, as well as the importance of human rights and responsibilities in society.

Patrick Sullivan, said he was aware of concerns about curriculum overload among teachers and parents.

He said the question of time dedicated to the proposed religion and ethics curriculum will form part of the consultation process.

“Next year we’ll be advising the Minister for Education on time allocation right across the curriculum in light of developments such as the new language curriculum, the continued development of the curriculum in maths as well as religion, belief and ethics.”

The Education Act ( requires the Minister for Education to ensure that a “reasonable amount” of time is set aside in each school day for subjects relating to the school’s ethos.

The council says the overall vision for the new curriculum is for a “pluralist and values-based education” which can enable teachers to support children to contribute positively to a diverse world.

The curriculum aim aimed at contribute to the development of children in areas such as personal understanding, mutual understanding, character education, connection to the wider world and spiritual awareness.

An online questionnaire on the new curriculum is available at: