Community school pupils don't want religion class separation
Pupils in the new-style community national schools don't want to be separated for religious education, according to a new study from Trinity College Dublin (TCD).
One major concern is a perception of privilege of Catholic pupils, if they are singled out for First Communion classes. Researchers say such preparation should not happen in school time.
Community national schools have a multi-denominational ethos, and are emerging as a new force in primary education. Currently there are just 11 but another facility is opening in Killarney, Co Kerry, in September.
They are under the patronage of education and training boards, and offer a general religious education programme, as well as opportunities for children to separate into "belief-specific" groups.
Concerns raised by principals, teachers and parents have already led to significant changes to the approach to religious education in many of the schools.
In April, the separation of 4-9-year-olds into four groups, 'Catholic', 'Christian', 'Muslim' and 'other', for three to four weeks of the year for belief-specific teaching was suspended in most schools.
The programme will be reviewed from September 2017 by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. There is no separation of 9-13-year-olds for belief-specific teaching.
The study, by sociologists Prof Daniel Faas and Dr Aimee Smith, found a preference among pupils for the whole-classroom approach to religious education.
Teachers and principals also raised concerns that belief-specific teaching could not provide for all beliefs equally. The researchers recommend that belief-specific teaching, currently practised in two of the 11 schools, should be discontinued.