Information for parents, guardians, and carers.
Many parents/guardians do not know that they have a right to opt out of Faith Formation classes in their primary school. Faith formation classes essentially teach the religious values of the school as truth. For example, in a Christian denomination school (about 96% of schools), children learn prayers and worship Jesus Christ. They learn stories from the New Testament as truth. Particularly in Catholic schools, much of faith formation in 2nd and 6th class surrounds preparation for Communion and Confirmation respectively.
Opting out means that your child does not have to take part in these lessons. While schools do not have to provide alternative work or accommodation for your child, many do. Examples of accommodations made for children who are opted out include: sitting at the back of the class reading, drawing or on a computer; sitting in their own seat doing alternative work, homework, or work sent in by their parents; sitting in a different classroom. In the case of going to religious buildings such as churches, some schools allow opted out children to stay behind in another teacher’s classroom but sometimes the child must come to the church. In some cases for either context, a parent may be asked to collect their child from school during faith formation classes or on visits to religious buildings. In the worst case scenario, no accommodations are made and the child must sit through these lessons.
The majority of schools, of course, do accommodate children that wish to opt out of faith formation. However, most schools do not publicly display how they accommodate children that opt out of faith formation classes.
As an aside, opting out does not mean children are free from religious indoctrination. The religion on the patron body must permeate throughout the school day, so many other subjects are taught through the lens of the belief system of the school. This is most notable in RSE (Relationships and Sexual Education.)
The following resources may be of use to you.