Schools and the ‘baptism rule’
Sir, – Legislative proposals to amend the “baptism rule” for children seeking entry into Irish schools are a step in the right direction (“Bruton to propose end to school ‘baptism barrier’”, News, October 12th). This is particularly apposite in light of the changing nature of cultural diversity in Ireland, evidenced in the recent census returns. Equality of access to education is required in part to fulfil the country’s treaty obligation under European human rights law.
However, equality of treatment is also required which reflects the family background. Responding to children of all faiths is an increasing part of discourse within schools, but there also needs to be consideration of children of no faith, whereby parents’ convictions should legally be respected in the school context.
Separation of church and state is unlikely given the history and legacy of denominational schooling in Ireland, but the challenge will be how the majority faith-based schools in Ireland can reconcile issues of secular humanism and other philosophical traditions within a religious ethos. – Yours, etc,
Professor of Education,
University of Limerick.