Majority of parents favour State-run schools, poll finds


MORE THAN 70 per cent of parents would prefer to see schools run by the State with equal status and opportunity for all religions, according to a new poll.

And in excess of half of all adults would like to see some of the time now given to religion reallocated to other activities, principally physical education.

These are the main findings of a RedC poll, commissioned by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN). The other main findings include:

Only 43 per cent of all those with children under the age of 15 would like to see the 2½ hours now spent on teaching religion each week retained;

More than half of all adults with children under the age of 15 would like to see some of this time reallocated to other activities;

Parents would appear to want to see more time spent on physical activity, with one in four (26 per cent) stating they would like to see some of the time spent on religion reallocated to this activity;

Mothers (32 per cent) and those in under-25-year-old age groups (45 per cent) are behind the drive for more time spent on physical and health education; and

In contrast with this apparent move away from religious education in schools, more than half of all parents (56 per cent) believe that religious instruction and preparation for the sacraments should be taught by the class teacher during school hours.

Commenting on the results, Larry Fleming, president of the IPPN, said: “Such a large majority in favour of State-run schools with equal status and opportunity for all religions has to be seen as an endorsement of the Department of Education’s decision to pilot a new model of school patronage in Dublin next year.

“This will see, for the first time, the VEC as patron of two new community national schools.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the place of religion in our primary schools. Much of this comes from those with an established ideological position,” said Seán Cottrell, national director of IPPN. “Every day, in schools throughout the country, it is parents and principals who have to work together to plan and resolve the practical issues that arise out of religious difference, such as enrolment, withdrawal from religion classes and preparation for religious events,” said Mr Cottrell.

“We believe it is important that IPPN learns independently what parents actually think and feel about the role of the religious in school management and the extent to which parents want the teaching of religion and the preparation for sacraments in their primary schools,” Mr Fleming said.

A sample of 350 parents who had young children were surveyed for the telephone poll.

Mr Cottrell added: “IPPN believes that up until now the voice of parents has not been sufficiently heard on this matter.”

The telephone poll was conducted earlier this year among a representative sample of parents.

Earlier this year, a poll commissioned by the Catholic hierarchy signalled a high level of support for a continued strong role for the church in education.