Students opting out of religion at State-run schools to study other subjects

Jess Casey

Reporter:

Jess Casey

'Children will no longer be sitting at the back of the class': Minister for Education Richard Bruton

'Children will no longer be sitting at the back of the class': Minister for Education Richard Bruton

STUDENTS who opt out of religious studies at State-run schools must now be timetabled to study another subject instead of sitting at the back of a classroom or undertaking supervised study.

New directions from the Department of Education require schools to provide alternative tuition throughout the school year for students who opt out of religious studies rather than supervised study or other activities.

This requirement applies to ETB and Community post primary schools and the new rules do not apply to religious run schools.

“The new arrangements will ensure that children who do not want to participate in religious instruction will no longer be sitting at the back of the class or confined to the library,” Minister for Education Richard Bruton said.

According to the Department of Education, it may have been reasonable when ETB and Community schools were originally established for a school to assume that its pupil population was predominantly Catholic and to arrange religious instruction accordingly.

However, this is no longer seen as an appropriate approach.

Minister Bruton said: “It is important that ETB and Community Post Primary schools as multi-denominational schools, fully implement this circular as it presents an important opportunity to meet the expectations of parents and students in a changing society.”

“This can only be achieved by consulting with parents, and including their wishes as part of the normal planning process of any school.”

A circular from the Department has now been issued to all relevant schools, with the new directions to take immediate effect.

Parents will no longer have to request a withdrawal from religious instruction and their wishes will be included as part of the process for planning and organising of subject selection.

Parents also have to be consulted in relation to the school’s arrangements for worship and religious events, whether they wish their children to participate or not.

According to the Department of Education, this new requirement complements the work of ETBI who are reviewing current arrangements in ETB schools to make sure that they reflect their multidenominational nature in a modern setting.