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Church of Ireland General Synod: Religious education

16 May 2014

A MOTION calling for the safeguarding of religious education in Church of Ireland schools in the Republic was passed at the Synod. The motion, in the names of Dr Anne Lodge (Dublin) and the Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne & Ross, the Ven. Adrian Wilkinson (Cork), called on the General Synod to affirm the importance of religious education in primary schools under Church of Ireland patronage, and on the Board of Education, to ensure that high-quality standards were maintained in the delivery of the "Follow Me" Religious Education curriculum.

Dr Lodge said that it was the Church of Ireland rather than the State which decided the content of religious education in Church of Ireland schools. She explained that Follow Me was carefully constructed to be inclusive of children of the various reformed Christian Churches, and to be age-appropriate both in its content and in its approaches to teaching.

Seconding the motion, Archdeacon Wilkinson said that, in primary school, religious education took place in the classroom, and was where "what is implicit in the ethos of our schools becomes explicit". He said, however, that the Department of Education had no part to play in religious education or its evaluation. He said that the motion requested that the Board of Education ensure that high standards were maintained in the delivery of the Follow Me programme.

A motion calling for equal treatment of all schools in Northern Ireland was also passed. The motion, in the names of the Bishop of Derry & Raphoe, the Rt Revd Kenneth Good, and Dr Kenneth Dunn (Connor), stated that the General Synod noted with deep concern the continued disadvantaged position of controlled schools throughout Northern Ireland, owing to a lack of a dedicated advocacy-and-support body, and called on the Minister of Education to take steps to resolve this injustice, and ensure equality of treatment for all schools.

Proposing the motion, Bishop Good said that other sectors of schools in Northern Ireland - including the Catholic Maintained sector, the Integrated sector, and the Irish Medium sector - each had a dedicated support body. The controlled sector, made up of church schools that the C of I, the Presbyterian, and the Methodist Churches transferred to the control of the State in the the 20th century, did not.

A further motion called on the General Synod to encourage the board of governors of the Church of Ireland College of Education to ensure that in ongoing discussions regarding any reconfiguration of the college - due to take place in a merger involving Dublin City University and other teacher-training colleges - the religious ethos and values of the Church of Ireland, as outlined in the resolution adopted by the General Synod in 2013, are promoted and legally safeguarded.

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