Parents to 'opt in' for religion at 300 schools
Parents of pupils attending State-run post-primary schools will now be "opting in" if they want religious instruction for their children rather than "opting out".
The change comes in a Department of Education clarification of a controversial circular to schools earlier this year about timetabling pupils who did not want to participate in religious instruction for another class.
It affects about 300 schools - community colleges, which are run by Education and Training Board (ETB), and community schools where the ETB shares control with a Catholic patron.
The original circular caused a storm because of confusion over the distinction between religious instruction and the subject of religious education, as well as claims that schools did not have the resources to provide alternative tuition.
ETBS has been seeking clarification before implementing the terms of the circular but the updates may not meet all the concerns
The latest stipulates that religious education, an optional subject at junior and senior cycle, with a syllabus prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), must be delivered "without any religious instruction or worship of any religion forming any part of class activity".
"This means that any practice of material that would introduce religious instruction or worship cannot be used in future," it says.
"This clear separation of religious instruction from the NCCA Religious Education syllabus has the effect of ensuring that withdrawal does not arise for students studying the NCCA Religious Education syllabus."
The issue of "opting out" would no longer arise. But where a school decided to offer religious instruction separately, students should only be in a class "where there has been a parental request for admission".