How inclusive are denominational schools?

With 96% of primary schools under the patronage of a religious group, and with 25% of the population now identifying as a minority faith or of no faith at all, primary schools have had to make decisions in a number of areas to accommodate children that do not share the faith of the school. This can cause difficulties for schools who are caught in a tug-of-war between some families and their patron body.

While this tug-of-war is being worked out, this website calls on all the agencies below to ensure that the schools under their direction are open about how they accommodate people with regard to opting out of religion in their schools.

Patron Bodies

Of the 4 main denominations, only one organisation has published guidelines for their schools on opting out of Faith Formation. The Catholic Church which patronises around 90% of all schools has published a booklet “Catholic Primary Schools in a Changing Ireland.” This document dedicates 2 pages out of 34 to opting out and the guidelines do not cover much of the concerns raised by minority faith and no faith parents and staff.

We call on all denominational patron bodies to direct their schools to:

School Management Bodies

There are a number of bodies that manage schools. For example, the CPSMA (Catholic Primary Schools Management Association) are responsible for the management of the majority of Catholic Primary Schools.

We call on all denominational management bodies to direct their schools to:

Department of Education and Skills

The Department of Education and Skills have made a number of attempts to diversify the number of types of schools on offer to people in the last decade. This continues to be a failure, with denominational education accounting for over 96% of primary schools in Ireland. The government have also made some questionable proposals to Catholic schools to prevent them from discriminating against families on enrollment based on religion, but failing to put the same measure in place to other denominations. The government have also failed to address the problems that families will face if they do enrol in a denominational primary school.

We call on the Department of Education and Skills to encourage schools to:

National Parents’ Council

While the National Parents’ Council is in favour of abolishing the “Baptism Barrier” in all denominational schools, there is no evidence of policy of opting children out of faith formation.

We call on the National Parents’ Council to encourage schools to:

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation

The INTO represents almost all primary school teachers in Ireland and has a good record in terms of highlighting inequality. However, it has stayed almost silent on teachers being able to opt out from being part of the religious community of their schools.

We call on the INTO to encourage schools to:

Irish Primary Principals’ Network

The IPPN have published interesting findings about the thoughts of principals in terms of religion. Furthermore, it is interesting to read the plight of one of its former members and how he had to hide his lack of faith for his entire career. While the IPPN does not represent principals per se, it provides huge supports to its members.

We call on the IPPN to support the aims of Opting Out by: