‘Baptism barrier’ and schools

 

Sir, – Equal treatment in school has been largely ignored by Minister for Education Richard Bruton who has instead chosen to focus solely on equal access. None of our children should have to “sit at the back of the class” or in any other way be treated as less than equal in our state-funded schools.

We would not accept religious discrimination in our tax offices or post offices and we should not accept it inside our state-funded schools. The only way to ensure all citizens are treated equally by the state is through a state-funded network of secular schools. – Yours, etc,

KEVIN SHEEDY,

Malahide,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – You reported that Minister for Education Richard Bruton intended to announce plans to bring an end to the so-called “baptism barrier” but the actual announcement made by the Minister did anything but that.

While the acknowledgment by the Minister of the problem represents progress and a welcome statement of position by the Minister, the proposals to address the problem are inadequate.

The Minister has announced four possible alternatives and it seems that all of of them remain discriminatory.

Although “option four ” proposes a ban on using religion to discriminate on admissions, the proposal by the department that there is capacity to allow religious schools to require parents or students to indicate some support or respect for the ethos of the school will mean that there is still de facto discrimination.

Requiring families to support an ethos that is contrary to their belief system is unconscionable and represents a more onerous requirement than at present where children may legally opt out of religious instruction.

If we are to truly address the “unfairness” perceived by the Minister, then we must remove all barriers to accessing education in publicly funded schools for children of all religions and none, and ensure that those children have their and their families’ beliefs respected and protected. – Yours, etc,

SARAH LENNON,

Chairwoman,

Education Equality,

Shankill,

Dublin 18.

A chara, – The Rev Patrick G Burke writes that the “possibility of opting out of religious instruction in our schools is real and is availed of by many” (January 16th).

I am a parent of a child who had a very “real” experience of opting out in his local national school, a school that has a Catholic ethos but is not under church patronage. Opting out meant sitting in a classroom doing extra work, while faith-formation classes took place. The time spent daily on faith formation grew exponentially, overtaking core subjects as the Communion Mass approached. Opting out meant being sent to another class to do extra work while the class went to church. Opting out meant you could not talk about your different beliefs but would be allowed to dress up and play at being Catholic to make yourself more socially acceptable. Opting out is a concept that is bandied around by principals, boards of management and church bodies but is not provided for in any “real” sense. – Is mise,

SAIBH NÍ LOINGSIGH,

Dublin 6.