A new document from the Joint Managerial Body gives guidance to Catholic secondary schools on how to show respect for children from diverse backgrounds while at the same time abiding by the schools’ own religious ethos.
Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing almost 400 Catholic second-level schools, to reflect the growing religious and cultural diversity in schools.
At the same time, they stress that “it should always be made clear to parents that students will be experiencing the values and ethos of the school in the day-to-day running of the school, not just in RE class”.
The guidelines support the prominent display of Catholic religious imagery in schools, but also suggest that pupils from different faiths could be invited to display art/icons around the time of their own major religious feasts.
In the area of clothing, they state that no one should be prevented from wearing a religious symbol or garment in accordance with their tradition, such as the hijab for Muslim girls or the turban for Sikh boys.
The guidelines point to the practice by Hindu females particularly, and Muslims from India, to paint their hands and feet around the time of a religious festival, which “should be regarded with understanding”.
Where Muslims are concerned about sex education, schools are urged to provide an opportunity for parents to discuss the moral framework before discussing whether to withdraw their child. PE can also be problematic for Muslims, on modesty grounds, and among the solutions proffered are for girls to wear a burkini, a short wet suit.