Proposal to reduce RE time another attack on denominational schools

A draft proposal by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to reduce the two and a half hours allocated by primary schools each week to the teaching of religion is another attack on the rights of denominational schools, The Iona Institute says today in a press release.

The proposal is a response to the overcrowding of the primary school curriculum. The NCCA wants more time to be spent teaching maths and Irish and English as well as a proposed new course called Education about Religion, Beliefs and Ethics (ERB and Ethics).

Responding to the proposals, Dr Tom Finegan of the Iona Institute said: “This is another example of the State showing that it has little or no appreciation for the role and place of denominational education in Irish society, or of the importance many parents place on denominational education.

“For parents who support denominational education, Religious Education is a good thing in itself. It is at least as important that children leave school with well-formed moral characters and a fulfilling relationship with God, as that they leave with a good knowledge of Irish, or art or music or maths. For Christians, the greatest of all moral teachers is Jesus Christ, and it makes perfect sense that Christian schools, which are at the service of Christians parents, should play a big part in telling children who Jesus is and what it is to follow him and be part of his Church community”.

He continued: “The thinking behind this proposal appears to be that the time spent teaching RE is somehow compromising academic standards in our schools. What is the evidence for this? Catholic primary schools in Northern Ireland also allocate around two and a half hours per week to RE and those schools regularly outperform their State counterparts. Furthermore, Northern Ireland primary schools regularly appear near the top of international league tables along with Finland.

“Scottish Catholic schools also allocate two and a half hours per week to RE and those schools also fare well academically despite the fact that they are often located in more disadvantaged areas”.

Dr Finegan concluded: “The NCCA should leave it up to schools and their patron bodies to decide whether or not to allocate two and a half hours per week to RE, otherwise it will be unjustly interfering with parental rights and the rights of all those involved in supporting denominational schools.”