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Two-thirds of parents still want schools to give religious tuition

Only one in four parents favour church-run primary schools -- but they still want their children prepared for sacraments during the school day.

A huge reluctance by parents to abandon the tradition of schools providing formal religious instruction for their children emerges in a new survey,

The poll shows that parents have separated the issue of who runs schools from what they expect schools to do.

The new poll of parents was carried out before Easter on behalf of the Irish Primary Principals' Network (IPPN), the professional body representing primary school leaders. It was conducted by RedC among 729 adults aged 18-54.

It found that 27pc of parents would choose a primary school owned and managed by the Church, compared with the remainder, who would opt for a Vocational Education Committee (VEC) school, multi-denominational or state-run.

While most would not have their children educated by the Church, 67pc -- two in three -- still want their child to receive formal religious instruction during the school day.

That would involve preparation for the sacraments, such as first confession, first communion and confirmation.

A minority, 31pc -- one in three -- of parents would rather their children receive religious education outside of school.

IPPN president Gerry Murphy said: "While there appears to be a public appetite for choice in the models of school patronage available, with most people opting for models that are not based on the ethos of a Church, there is still strong demand for religious instruction to be taught within the school day".

The publication of the poll comes as preparations are laid for a radical shake-up of primary school patronage to offer parents more choice.

The plan is to hand over some church-run schools to other patron bodies, subject to the approval of parents.

The recent report of the Forum on Patronage and Pluralism also made recommendations about the role of religion in all schools to ensure they are inclusive of all pupils.

While it supported preparation for the sacraments during school hours, the forum said it must not encroach on time for other subjects.

Reform

Meanwhile, the multi-denominational body, Educate Together is expected to open its first second-level school in 2013 or 2014.

Educate Together has applied for patronage of schools opening in Drogheda, Co Louth, Greystones, Co Wicklow and Tyrellstown/Mulhuddart, Blanchardstown and Lusk, in the County Dublin area, over the next three years.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn told the organisation's annual conference at the weekend, that their ambition to be a patron to a second-level school would be realised next month.

However, no final decision has been made on which of its applications will be successful.

Educate Together is a strong advocate for educational reform and its entry into second-level education coincides with plans for changes to the Junior Cert to end the problem of rote learning.

One of Educate Together's main platforms is continuous assessment of pupils, but there is opposition from the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland, who fear it could lead to parents seeking to bribe teachers in order to get the right results.

Irish Independent