OptingOut.ie is aimed at:

  • Denominational Primary Schools
  • Teachers working in them
  • Families sending their children to them

The purpose of the website is to provide factual information as to how denominational schools accommodate minority faiths and none throughout the school day.

Over a five year period, information was collated directly from schools and parents of children in these schools. Stakeholders were contacted, especially those in denominational settings. All of this data has now been analysed and key information about schools and how they accommodate children, in terms of faith formation, is published. The information is correct as of November 2023.

Our mission was twofold. 

Firstly, we wanted to give schools and those representing them the opportunity to showcase how inclusive they purport to be. 

Secondly, we wanted to analyse whether the current solution of “opting out” is a good enough solution for families, and if not, what solutions could be explored.

Our challenge to schools was: “If everyone takes part, it will prove that we really do care about people of minority faiths and none in our schools.”

Brief Conclusions

It is clear from the research that, at best, children that are opted out, are just about tolerated by the system. The patron bodies instructed their schools to be unclear and abstract about opting out arrangements and the vast majority of schools complied with this. The majority of schools have made little effort to reasonably accommodate families. 

While collating information from parents and families was more difficult, the overwhelming feeling was powerlessness. Parents stated that because they were often one of the only families opted out of religion in a school that if their school was on the list, they would be identified and their child may be subject to unfavourable treatment. Parents stated that they were deeply frustrated by the apathy from other families who went along with a charade that nobody really believed in.

Furthermore, teachers within the education system work in precarious circumstances in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture. Due to Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act, a teacher can be disciplined for undermining the school’s ethos. Teachers believed that by opting out of religion in their school, they would be passed over for promotions, or their contracts may be discontinued if they didn’t have a permanent position.

My child will be starting in his local primary school this year. I don't want to cause a fuss but I'd rather he could opt out of religion. However, I can't find any information about how to do it.
I am a teacher who does not have a faith. However, every day, I have to pray with the children and provide them with faith formation. I hate lying but I have no choice. I could possibly lose my job. I just have to pretend to be part of the faith community and get on with it.
My child is opted out of faith formation. He sits at the back of the classroom colouring during this class. This afternoon he came home showing me the sign of the cross.