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Religion in schools forum on the cards

Thursday, 18th May, 2017 1:01am

Almost 1,000 submissions were received as part of consulation on the role religion plays in education.

The call for written submissions, which closed recently, had responses from a combination of individuals, schools and stakeholder organisations.

It was announced on Monday that a forum will be held at the end of the month on the role religion plays in primary schools.

It’s part of the broader consultation process on the subject currently being carried out and will be held by the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD.

In announcing the public consultation, Minister Bruton said that following the receipt and analysis of written submissions, consideration would be given as to whether any additional steps are needed as part of the consultation process.

Minister Bruton has stated that this initiative will focus on the primary school system as that is where the problem is most acutely felt.

Invitations to the forum were sent out on Monday to all major education stakeholder organisations, as well as to every organisation or individual who made a written submission as part of the public consultation.

However, in an effort to ensure that the conversation at the forum is productive, spaces will have to be limited and so anyone with an interest in attending is urged to respond early to the invitation.

Minister Bruton said: “This is a highly complex and difficult issue, with strong feelings genuinely held on all sides of the argument.

“There are no easy solutions to this problem, with difficulties in areas including constitutional law, administration of the schools system and protection of minority religious groups.”

The Education Minister also said that doing nothing was not an option.

He explained: “While only four per cent of our primary schools are under non-religious patronage, ten per cent of the population in the recent census stated that they are non-religious, with this figure even higher for those among usual parenting ages.

“One-third of all marriages now take place outside of any religion.”

It follows the Minister stating earlier in the year that he believes it is unfair that preference is given by publicly-funded religious schools to children of their own religion who might live some distance away, ahead of children of a different religion or of no religion who live close to the school.

The Minister also stated his belief that it is unfair that parents, who might otherwise not do so, feel pressure to baptise their children in order to gain admission to their local school.

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