Friday 24 May 2019

No additional resources for schools as religion 'opt out' rules kick in - Minister

Education Minister Richard Bruton
Education Minister Richard Bruton
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

No additional resources will be provided to schools as new rules are introduced to assist students who opt out of religion classes, Education Minister Richard Bruton said.

The Department of Education is to issue a circular to State schools today, introducing new rules to manage the opting out of religion by students.

The circular aims to "ensure the rights of children to attend school without having to attend religious instruction".

Speaking on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland, Minister Bruton said it "is always a challenge to juggle resources to meet demand", but confirmed the department will not be providing any extra resources to schools.

The new rules mean students who opt out of religion will have an alternative "meaningful programme", and will not be forced to sit in the back of the classroom or in the nearby library. The new rules apply to State-run schools.

The minister said he did not believe there would be any "resistance" to the change.

However, the Teachers' Union of Ireland have said in a statement that the move will "clearly require additional teachers". 

Minister Bruton said this morning; "It's really important parents who wants religious instruction for a child get it, it's equally important and indeed it's a constitutional right, that those who don't want it have a meaningful programme.

"So we're requiring now that schools consult with parents so they know in advance their wishes and they reconfigure their programme to ensure that children who do not want to participate in religious instruction have a meaningful programme.

"So that's the change, but it reflects the ethos of the schools established to serve their entire community."

Minister Bruton said the schools will "have to reconfigure their time-tabling".

"We're not providing extra resources as part of this," he continued.

"This isn't a talk of developing a new programme, it's ensuring schools reconfigure the resources to meet the pupils' need.

"You could extend the hours of some subjects, reducing the number of classes on the timetable on some subject areas depending on demand.

"This is the core mission of these schools, it's always been intended to respond to parents' needs."

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