CHRISTIAN religious-education lessons in Irish primary schools
should be scheduled at the beginning or end of the daily timetables
in order to allow those of other faiths or none to opt out, the
Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, has said.
He told the annual conference of the Irish National Teachers'
Organisation on Monday that the Roman Catholic Church, as patron of
the majority of such schools, had failed to provide information on
how national schools could be more inclusive in accommodating
pupils of other faiths and none.
Responding, the chairman of the Catholic Schools Partnership, Fr
Michael Drumm, rejected claims that the RC Church had been slow to
address the issue of inclusivity. He also challenged the suggestion
that religious education was a problem for parents of different
views in RC schools.
"The evidence we hear on the ground", he said, "is [that] when
the child-centred nature of the religious education programme is
explained to parents of other traditions, the vast majority,
including Muslims, are happy for their children to stay in."
Paul Rowe, who leads the non-denominational grouping Educate
Together, said that teachers made a big effort to balance the
situation, but "parents are telling us . . . that if they take
their child out of religious instruction, the child must leave the
class and sit . . . unsupervised in the corridor."