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School inspectors will ensure students who opt-out of religion classes are taught another subject, says minister

Minister Richard Burton said ETB schools must adhere to new departmental rules about religion classes.

Education Minister Richard Bruton
Education Minister Richard Bruton
Image: Sam Boal

EDUCATION MINISTER RICHARD Bruton said his department will use whatever “avenues are necessary” to ensure that Education and Training Board (ETB) schools are providing alternative subject choice to religion for students who wish not to partake. 

In February, the Department of Education issued a circular to schools with new rules which require state-run multi-denominational schools to provide alternative subject choices to students who don’t wish to study religion. 

However, since the new rules came into effect, there have been some reports that some schools are not adhering to the policy. 

When asked about the matter at a back to school launch this morning, the minister said inspectors will be out in force to ensure that schools have adequate policies in place. 

He said it is “very important” that schools which have been set up as ETBs offer alternatives to multi-denominational and non-religious students. 

“That is the principle in which they were established,” he said, adding: “It is very important they fulfill that principle.”

The minister said that while the vast majority of students in the past were from a Catholic background, that is not the case now. 

The department has said there is constitutional right not to attend religious instruction, and the government is obliged to give that effect through changed practices.

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He said ETB schools must now move with the “changing makeup” of the pupils in their schools. 

If necessary, and schools are failing to adhere to the department’s new rules, Bruton said he will use whatever avenues are needed to ensure schools comply. 

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