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The INTO said the survey was especially important due to Ireland’s population demographics having shifted. Alamy Stock Photo
religious patronage

Primary teachers to be surveyed on church-run schools 'in light of changing face of Ireland'

Approximately 90% of Ireland’s primary schools are Catholic, working at around 2,700.

A SURVEY OF primary school teachers will be carried out by the sector’s main union to gauge whether its members want to move away from Church-run schools.

Approximately 90% of Ireland’s primary schools are Catholic, working at around 2,700.

This is in stark contrast to 150 multi-denominational primary schools, and the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has voted today at its annual conference in Derry to undertake work examining the attitudes of its members towards the status quo.

It also warned that some schools are requiring teachers to obtain a certificate in religious education to teach in denominational schools, which it said “places an undue burden” on its members.

This also “needs to be reviewed in light of the changing face of Ireland” and the teacher supply crisis, the INTO added.

While it acknowledged that religious organisations have played a “vital role” in Irish primary education since the foundation of national school education in 1831, the union said that primary teachers’ feelings towards faith formation in schools need to be assessed.

It said this was especially important due to Ireland’s population demographics having shifted.

According to Census 2022 data, Roman Catholics accounted for 69 percent of the population – a significant fall from 2011′s 84 percent.

“Despite this clear trend, only about 150 primary schools in this jurisdiction are multi-denominational,” the INTO said in a statement.

The INTO acknowledges the importance of inclusive education to all children and the right to same but is concerned that the status quo may be infringing this right.

Tomas O’Reilly, a teacher from the union’s Roscommon North branch, had proposed the motion this morning at its annual congress.

“It is the requirement to teach a faith in 94% of our primary schools whether you hold those beliefs or not or even whether that faith explicitly ignores or denigrates your personal identity, sexuality or religion,” O’Reilly said.

“Teachers should have the opportunity to work in an environment that allows them to teach the curriculum and doesn’t impose that they must teach faith formation religion, something which should be the duty of the family and the religious or non-religious community of their choice.”

INTO Deputy General Secretary Deirdre O’Connor said that teachers, pupils and parents all now live in a diverse Ireland, and that schools “should reflect the wider school community” too.

O’Connor said that religious practice in schools is an emotive and complex issue but said the transfers of school patronage have been “slow” to date.

As a result, the process has “not gained the confidence of all members” of school communities, O’Connor said.

“The Department’s pilot scheme on the reconfiguration of schools to date has mostly focused on communications with parents. The INTO wants to gauge our members’ stance on issues related to school patronage and to present our union’s findings to the Department of Education in April 2025,” she said.

Given this, the INTO has proposed three actions:

  • Establish an INTO taskforce on school patronage;
  • Conduct a survey among members on various issues relating to religious patronage, including the role of schools in faith formation and their experiences with religious and secular patronage systems;
  • Engage with primary school patrons and management bodies to remove the requirement for a religious education certificate in order to teach in denominational schools.

The INTO said it will aim to conduct the survey of members within the next twelve months and disseminate results with members at next year’s conference.

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