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Catholic Church

Claims that children can't celebrate Christmas at Educate Together schools 'incorrect and misleading'

It has been claimed by one gaelscoil that Irish greetings like dia duit would no longer be allowed.

90401460_90401460 Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

EDUCATE TOGETHER HAS described claims that Christmas and other religious holidays will no longer be celebrated in schools once they are transferred from the Catholic Church as “incorrect and misleading.”

It was reported today that eight Catholic primary schools in north Dublin could have their patronage transferred – or divested -  to multi-denominational schools.  

There is opposition to the plan in at least two of the schools in the Portmarnock-Malahide-Kinsealy area of Dublin, the Irish Independent has reported.

It is understood that staff in two schools - Scoil an Duinnínigh and St Marnock’s NS – are opposed to the changes and have made their opposition clear to parents through letters and at meeting with parents, according to today’s report. 

It has been claimed by at least one of the two schools that Christmas fairs, carol services and nativity plays would no longer be held after a school is transferred and that St. Patrick’s Day, St. Brigid’s Day and Easter would no longer be celebrated in schools either, the Independent has reported. 

It has also been claimed by gaelscoil  Scoil an Duinnínigh that Irish greetings like dia duit - ‘God be with you’ – would no longer be allowed. 

The divestment process forms part of the Department of Education’s efforts to provide greater diversity in schools and reduce the dominance of the Catholic Church in education.

Transfers would be to the multi-denominational Community National School model, the all-Irish An Foras Pátrúnachta or the multi-denominational Educate Together. 

‘Incorrect and misleading’

In a statement today, Educate Together described the characterisation of multi-denominational and equality-based schools as “incorrect and misleading”.

“At the core of Educate Together’s equality-based ethos is that pupils in our schools are exposed to different beliefs and perspectives in a respectful way that encourages critical thinking.”

Each year, Educate Together offers pupils Festivals of Lights, seasonal get-togethers and winter fairs, the statement said, which incorporate elements of Christmas, Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice.

“Religious aspects of these festivities are approached from a learning perspective, rather than from a promotional perspective,” Educate Together has said. “At the heart of these celebrations is the principle that all members of the school community are welcome and equally respected.”

Christmas is marked in Educate Together schools nationwide, the group has said, “just as our schools endeavour mark Diwali, Eid, Vaisakhi and other religious festivals throughout the school term.”

Educate Together was formed in Dublin in 1978. There are currently 84 primary and 13 second-level schools around Ireland with a total of 28,000 students. 

‘Clear guidance’

Following today’s report, Educate Together has said that it has no interest in “taking over” schools and “imposing an ethos against the will of any local school communities.”

“The growth in the Educate Together school network continues to be driven by demand and we support the rights of families to access the education they want for their children.”

According to the Irish Independent, St Marnock’s NS and Scoil an Duinnínigh have both held meetings with parents about the divestment process. Parents at all eight schools are due to vote on the divestment process and the Catholic Church will then submit feedback to the department. 

The government plans to offer 400 multi-denominational schools by 2030.

A department spokesperson has said that there is “clear guidance” on the teaching of religion in primary schools.

Multi-denominational schools deliver the national primary curriculum in the same way as all schools and are subject to the same rules and regulations, regardless of patron.

“Many multi-denominational schools celebrate various important religious and non-religious events that take place throughout the year such as Christmas, Diwali, Eid, Vaisakhi, Holi, Darwin Day and other festivals.”

“It can be seen, therefore, that significant festivals or events which may be associated with a particular religion can play a part in the life of a multi-denominational school.”

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