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Catholic Church issues Guidelines on religious inclusion in schools


Posted by Sally O'Brien, on 13/03/2015. Catholic Church issues Guidelines on religious inclusion in schoolsTags: Education And Politics Parenting


The Catholic Church has published guidelines titled " Catholic Primary Schools in a Changing Ireland - Sharing Good Practice on Inclusion of All Pupils" advising schools on how they can provide policies of inclusion for non-religious and non-Catholic students in the classroom.

The guidelines have been issued in response to the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism on catering for the growing demand for greater choice in primary education for parents. The Catholic Schools Partnership have reacted with proposals detailing how students can ‘opt-out’ of religious education within schools if parents do not want their child to take part.

The document puts forward suggestions for parents and students who wish to 'opt out' from religious education in school. Thes proposals include:

“**Staying within the classroom following an interesting, educationally appropriate and child-friendly activity, where alternative supervision is not feasible.

**Split timetabling of religious education between class streams.

**Supervised project work/research in another room [where a member of staff is available].

**Parent/guardian absenting the child for the purpose of receiving religious instruction elsewhere.”

The guidelines also suggest that "children of other faiths should be invited but not obliged to attend all Catholic religious celebrations in the school. Individual children, with parental consent, can be invited to read special prayers/texts promoting core values such as respect and tolerance, which are common to many faith groups."

In refering to the delivery of inter-religious education, the guidelines state that "all children in Catholic schools have a right to learn about diverse faiths..... teachers in Catholic schools should show children that there are many living faiths practised by ordinary people in contemporary ireland. Ideally, local members of faith traditions should be invited into the Catholic school to inform the children about their religious beliefs and practices. "

According the The Journal.ie yesterday, Athiest Ireland responded to the document, publishing a post on their website arguing that these proposals did not respect the rights of non-religious parents and students. According to Atheist Ireland’s statement,

‘These proposals claim to be inclusive, but they are only inclusive of families who agree to submit to a Catholic ethos in their local publicly funded school, even when they have no choice other than to attend that school. They do not respect the human rights of atheist or secular families.’

continued:

“This document will not guarantee and protect the human rights of atheist and secular families. The children of atheist and secular families will still not be able to opt into an education that is objective, critical and pluralistic and one that protects their human rights.”

According to the Independent today, the INTO has also criticised the new guidelines say it was "disappointed that the document does not address many of the key concerns". The Independent reports that among INTO criticisms are a failue to recommend religious education at the start or end of the school day so withdrawal of pupils whose parents do not wish them to participate could be more easily accommodated.

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