Diversifying school patronage will take time

By Deborah Coleman

Published 24/11/2015 | 00:00

Deborah Coleman.
Deborah Coleman.

The debate over religious education in Irish schools was ignited once again this week after a request by parents to exempt their child from classes was denied at a Limerick school.

The school's view was that the subject was 'for all faiths and none' but the family concerned were not happy with this explanation.

In small Irish schools, however it is very difficult to facilitate perhaps one or two children who are not Catholic and who do not wish to sit in for RE classes.

The resources most likely are not there to have a child supervised in a separate classroom.

While families of non-Catholic faith certainly shouldn't be forced to have their children attend RE classes, some compromise must be reached in order for the situation to work for both the school and the students.

The bottom line it that we are still in the very early days of moving away from what was pretty much a single patronage by the Catholic church of primary schools.

The church itself has conceded that there is room for other models but it is up to the Department of Education to facilitate this and such chance won't come overnight.

Instead, schools that are unable to accommodate other faiths during RE classes or who feel they should not have to are getting a lot of criticism.

This is such a delicate and indeed, personal issue and it must be difficult for parents who have no choice of patronage within their communities.

They shouldn't be made to feel like it is an 'all or nothing' decision to send their child to a Catholic school and in an ideal world there would be an easy separation of education and religion.

However, any parent who decides to send their child to a Catholic school surely must understand the ethos involved and that RE is an integral part of the curriculum.

If clear agreement is reached between the school and parents upon enrolment then there is no reason why the system couldn't run smoothly.

Whether it is to allow parents to remove their child for the duration of that class, to have the child supervised elsewhere or to allow the child to stay within the classroom and work on another subject independently, surely there has to be a solution to suit all?

Wexford People

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