TUI to shun religious education opt-out

Union concerned no additional resources provided to schools to implement new rules

TUI President Joanne Irwin has questioned how  teachers can provide alternatives to religious education without extra resources. Photograph: Tommy Clancy

TUI President Joanne Irwin has questioned how teachers can provide alternatives to religious education without extra resources. Photograph: Tommy Clancy

 

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland is expected to direct its members not to co-operate with new Department of Education rules allowing students in some schools to opt out of religious instruction.

The union is concerned no additional resources have been provided to schools to cope with implementing a new circular on religious education.

The union will on Thursday consider an emergency motion at its annual conference about the circular. TUI president Joanne Irwin said she had no doubt the outcome of the debate would be for the union to direct its members not to comply with it.

She said TUI members and school management bodies were “somewhat taken aback” at the publication of the circular, which sets out arrangements for students who do not wish to participate in religious instruction.

The circular applies only to Education and Training Board and community schools.

Ms Irwin said the circular had “come out of nowhere” and offered no additional resourcing for its implementation.

Addressing Minister for Education Richard Bruton after his speech at the conference on Wednesday she said: “You are expecting schools to offer ‘alternative tuition’ - meaning subjects - to students at the time that religion instruction takes place. How can this be done? Have you even considered the implication this will have for the provision of the 400 hours wellbeing as part of Junior Cycle Reform? Minister, we would have brought all these concerns to you if you or your Department consulted with us. Why, Minister, are you singling out some schools and not others?

The Irish Times reported in February that no additional resources would be given to State secondary schools so students who opt out of religion can study something else.

Mr Bruton said at the time that schools would have to “reconfigure their resources” as best they could to serve the needs of students opting out of religion classes.

“They have to reconfigure their timetable so children who don’t want to participate in religion get the opportunity to do other things. That is common enough at second level where there will be students doing different options,” he said at the time.