Religion not prioritised over literacy and numeracy say Catholic schools

Catholic schools are not undermining literacy and numeracy to prioritise teaching religion, the head of their representative body has said.

Ahead of the Catholic Primary Schools' Management Association (CPSMA) AGM today, general secretary Fr Tom Deenihan has hit out at criticisms of inclusiveness in the sector, which makes up almost 90% of the country’s 3,200 primary schools.

His comments on the teaching of religion will be seen as directed at Education Minister Ruairi Quinn who recently came under fire for suggesting teachers who need to give more time to his requirements that they focus on literacy and numeracy might sacrifice some of the half-hour a day set aside for religion.

Fr Deenihan said there is a narrative that Catholic schools are selective, sectarian and do not educate children together. “This narrative is false, if not mischievous. Catholic schools serve the community by educating children of different nationalities, faith backgrounds and education abilities. It is regrettable that the whole debate on inclusion and inclusivity has focused on the single area of religious affiliation. Inclusion is more than that, rather Catholic schools are as inclusive as any other and more so than many.

“The impression has also been given that our schools have an unhealthy obsession with the teaching of religion, even to the exclusion or the detriment of literacy and numeracy. That argument does not hold,” Fr Deenihan said.

A spokesperson for Mr Quinn said he had been asked last month, if he was a teacher, what subjects he would take time from to meet the commitment to giving at least 90 minutes a day to reading and writing, and 50 minutes on maths.

“He responded that if he were a teacher he would take the time from religion. That is a far cry from suggesting that we stop teaching religion in primary schools,” she said.

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