Bruton hits out at Quinn over religion in schools
FORMER Taoiseach John Bruton has taken Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to task for suggesting that preparing children for sacraments should take place outside school hours.
Mr Bruton challenged his view that at least some of the 30 minutes a day teaching religion in primary schools might be better spent addressing declining literacy and numeracy skills.
The establishment of a forum to decide on how the Catholic Church should hand over some of the 92pc of primary schools under its control to new patrons has sharpened the focus on the place of religion in schools.
Mr Bruton insisted last night that faith formation does have a place in school, "that it should share peacefully with science, literacy (and) mathematics".
Speaking at a Lenten Lecture on faith and public policy, Mr Bruton said the the cultivation of a religious sense was a vital part of education.
"Education is about more than a lot of facts. It is about learning how to live and how to make judgments. Schools do need to have a shared belief system."
Mr Bruton asked why the time spent teaching religion was singled out, and questioned whether it was responsible for Ireland's poorer performance in OECD/PISA literacy tests.
"As far as I know, that 30 minutes has not increased over the period since the earlier tests, in which Ireland obtained fifth place," he said.