Catholic bishops in Irealnd have warned the Minister for Education that it is not her role to interfere with the ethos of faith schools.

Catholic bishops in Ireland have warned the Minister for Education that it is not her role to interfere with the ethos of faith schools.
The move follows a pledge by Jan O’Sullivan this week to abolish a 50-year old rule which gives privileged status to religion in the classroom.
She also called for changes to the Equal Status Act – which permits schools to discriminate on the basis of religion – in order to prioritise the admission of local children, no matter what their religion is.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Bishops’ Council for Education said religious education and admission policies were crucial to preserving the ethos of faith schools.
“It is not the role of the Minister to determine or interfere with the ethos of faith schools. Legal advice available to the Department of Education confirms this,” it said.
While it said it supported moves to update rules contained in the Rules for National Schools – published in 1965 – the rules relating to religion should not be dealt with isolation from others.
School choice
The Iona Institute went further, saying that plans to abolish “rule 68” represented another attack on the rights of faith schools.
Its spokesman David Quinn said while there is a need for more school choice, denominational schools must be allowed to have a “strong, faith-based ethos.”
The move has been supported, however, by Equate, a new campaign group dedicated to promoting equality in education.
Its spokesman Michael Barron said the removal of rule 68 could allow for the placement of religious education at the start or the end of the school day. This, he said, could allow parents to opt-in to faith formation classes if they wished.
Ms O’Sullivan has also indicated that long-awaited school admissions legislation, which sought to restrict the number of past-pupils that schools can admit, will not be enacted in advance of a general election.
The Minister had pledged to reserve a maximum of 10 per cent of places for children of past pupils on the basis it would provide greater access to schools for the wider community.
Disappointed
Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said he was disappointed the Bill will not be progressed during the lifetime of this Dáil.
He said it would have provided for very important changes to make enrolment policies fairer and more transparent, as well as improving access to school for children with special needs.
He said: “I would urge whatever parties form the next Government to make the passage of this Bill an absolute priority.”
Olivia Mitchell, a Fine Gael TD for Dublin South, however, welcomed the shelving of the legislation which she was “very restrictive” and unpopular with parents.
“We should be trying to encourage parents to get involved in schools,” she said.
Eoghan Murphy, a Fine Gael TD for Dublin South East, said there will be frustration among schools parents who want certainty about what reforms there will be to admissions systems.

2 thoughts on “Catholic bishops in Irealnd have warned the Minister for Education that it is not her role to interfere with the ethos of faith schools.

  1. I fear that sixupman is right. For a start, what was the Church’s response to the ruling that all hospitals had to carry out abortions? Secondly, what was the response of the Bishops to the proposal to redefine marriage? Thirdly, does the political party in power pay the slightest bit of attention to what the bishops say? It seems rather that their agenda is to undermine the Church as much as possible and if the Church doesn’t like it then so what? It seems that the time is past when the majority of voters in Ireland look to the Church for guidance. So any party with an anti-Church agenda isn’t going to suffer much at the polls. The Church in Ireland better get used to the new situation. The only way of reversing it is to reverse the decline of Catholicism in Ireland. If the bishops are really concerned then they could take some steps top put their own house in order and deal effectively with the high level of dissent in the Church in Ireland.

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