Minister Bruton publishes Circular setting out new arrangements for children who do not want to participate in Religious Instruction or Worship at school
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The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD, today announced that his department has published a circular setting out a new approach to the arrangements that are made for religious instruction and worship in Education and Training Board (ETB) and Community Post Primary schools.
ETB and Community Post Primary schools are multi-denominational schools that provide for their local communities regardless of their composition. It may have been reasonable when these schools were originally established for a school to assume that its pupil population was predominately Catholic and to arrange religious instruction accordingly. However, this is no longer an appropriate approach. In a changing context the constitutional right not to attend religious instruction must be given effect through changed practices.
The key change in the circular published today is that those who do not want instruction in line with the requirements of any particular religion should be timetabled for alternative tuition throughout the school year rather than supervised study or other activities.
Announcing the change, Minister Bruton stated:
"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."
Parents will no longer have to request a withdrawal from religious instruction. The wishes of parents will have to be established as part of the process for planning and organising of subject selection.
The new arrangements, which will take effect immediately, will require schools to provide alternative timetabled tuition for those who do not want instruction in any religion. Parents will 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. There may be occasions or events where parents may wish to participate and schools will need to plan accordingly.
These new arrangements are an important step for these schools, as multidenominational schools serving the children of their communities regardless of faith or none. This circular will complement the work of ETBI who are engaged in reviewing current arrangements in ETB schools to ensure that they reflect their multidenominational nature in a modern setting.
Minister Bruton stated:
“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."