Editorial: A need for sensitivity at time of change for schools
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn wants less religion to be taught in primary schools and the time saved to be devoted to improving children's literacy and numeracy. The minister's call comes amid a new initiative requiring schools to devote an extra 30 minutes per week to specifically fostering these skills. It puts additional pressure on primary teachers who are already trying to teach up to 11 subjects.
The teachers said that finding extra time for literacy and numeracy means something has to give. This led to Mr Quinn saying it was his own view that the extra 30 minutes per week could be taken from religion teaching. Mr Quinn points out that, in other countries, schools are secular and things such as preparation for Confirmation and Holy Communion are dealt with by the parish out of school hours. As things stand, teachers must spend 30 minutes per day on religion and a survey by the primary teachers' union, INTO, last year found that 70pc of schools spend more than this once preparation for sacraments was factored in.
This is a sensitive and potentially divisive subject. Mr Quinn is known to have strong secularist views but the views of parents and teachers must also be carefully assessed here. The Catholic bishops have signalled alarm, saying they support improving numeracy and literacy but religious values need not be neglected.