26th January 2017 - Primary Principals divided on future of Religion in Schools

As the Education (Admissions to School) Bill makes its way through the Oireachtas, promising to abolish school admission waiting lists and limit Catholic schools from exclusively selecting children who have been baptised, the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN) has surveyed its membership on the format and shape that the teaching of religion should take in primary schools in to the future.

 

The principal’s professional organisation will host its Annual Conference in Citywest Convention Centre on Thursday and Friday, 26th and 27th January with over 1,100 primary principals in attendance. With recent developments related to the place of religion in schools and its impact on Admission policies the organisation was prompted to conduct this research.

Asked whether they would prefer a separate multi-denominational religious beliefs and ethics programme in schools, as opposed to an integrated multi-denominational beliefs and ethics programme - 25% of the almost 550 principals who responded opted for the former while 36% indicated a preference for the latter.

Interestingly, almost 40% of principals chose neither of these options, preferring instead the faith formation programmes that currently are taught in denominational schools.

These findings indicate a 14% drop in preference for exclusive faith formation religious tuition since IPPN’s last research on this topic in 2012.

Deputy President of IPPN, David Ruddy said that the findings reflect increasing secularism in society but don’t alter the reality that all schools promote diversity and inclusion regardless of religious beliefs. “While the media may attempt to promote the belief that schools are excluding children on the basis of religious denomination or the religious programme taught in a particular school, the reality is that this applies only to a very small percentage of schools. Most refusals to enroll are based on the reality that schools simply have not enough room rather than the religion of the applicant family’’.

Mr Ruddy expressed confidence that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) which is currently working on a revised religion and ethics programme for schools will deliver a framework that will be universally acceptable.

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