Schools forced to cut Catholic classes
The amount of time allocated in Catholic schools to teach children about their own religion is set to be cut.
The teaching of religion in primary schools is facing its biggest ever shake-up with controversial plans for the first State programme in the subject.
Government education advisers have unveiled proposals for a ground-breaking Education about Religion and Beliefs and Ethics subject for children in all 3,000 primary schools.
The Catholic church runs 90pc of primary schools and currently has the authority to devise its own religious education programme for its pupils.
Department of Education guidelines allow 30 minutes a day for such classes and, in denominational schools, such programmes revolve around teaching their own faith, including preparations for the sacraments. However, the introduction of a new State curriculum on religion and ethics presents a challenge about where that would slot into the schedule.
One option would be to eat into the existing allocation for religion teaching - the alternative would be to take time from teaching other subjects such as English and Maths.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) has launched a consultation document on the issue, inviting all members of the public to offer their views, before it draws up final advice for the Minister for Education.
Mary Immaculate primary teacher training college Professor Eamonn Conway described the proposals as "bizarre" .
Professor Conway questioned why "a faith-based school would be required to offer what is essentially a secularist understanding of religious faith". He said its introduction would "undoubtedly adversely affect religious instruction and a faith-based school's characteristic ethos".