Latest: Minister 'broadly welcomes' decision to move sacramental education to outside school day

Update 8.17pm: The Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, has "broadly welcomed" the move by the ETBI to no longer hold communion preparation classes during the school day at Community National Schools.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "The Department hasn’t been formally notified of the decision but the Minister has indicated that he would broadly welcome the direction in which the ETBI is moving.

"There are 12 Community National Schools in Dublin, Cork, Kerry, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. Enrolement figures for 2017 have not yet been collated, but in September 2016 there were over 3,000 pupils enrolled in 11 Community National Schools.

"The schools will continue to teach Goodness Me Goodness You (GMGY) during school hours. This is the patron’s programme, which is in line with the objective of Community National Schools to be multi-denominational schools that provide for belief nurturing during the school day. GMGY is a common programme suitable for pupils of all faiths and beliefs and none."

Update 12.39pm: Community National Schools will no longer hold communion preparation classes during the school day.

There are currently 12 of these state-run Education and Training Board Ireland (ESBI) primary schools, catering for nearly 4000 students.

Seamus Conboy from (ESBI) said that the decision was based on the needs of all children.

“When equality emerges, a very important cornerstone for us, we realised that we have to treat all children equally in relation to how we provide for their faith,” he said.

“So that was why we moved towards moving the sacramental education to outside the school day.”


Campaign group EQUATE has today welcomed the decision by Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI) to end the teaching of faith formation during the school day in its Community National Schools.

EQUATE director, Michael Barron said: "Ensuring that one religion is not given preferential treatment over others, including sacramental preparation, and that every child experiences full equality during the school day is central to the work that EQUATE is engaged in.

"At last years' ETBI Conference I outlined to delegates the reasons why the only equality and children's rights approach to the teaching of religion would be to ensure that children are kept together throughout the school day.

“Therefore removing faith formation from the school day and ceasing any separation of students on religious grounds are issues that we prioritised in all of our dealings with officials in ETB. We wholeheartedly welcome this move by ETBI to formally end a practice that was not in the best interests of children.

“Ireland’s education system is undergoing a series of reforms and it must be acknowledged that ETBs are playing a central part in this reform through Community National Schools.

“Since taking over patronage of the CNS model they have made very positive changes to the teaching of religion and we commend them for their progress on this.

“Current Education Minister, Richard Bruton has also committed to making equality a central plank of Ireland’s education system. Religious discrimination has no place in our state funded school system and the positive changes with the state schools and the promised reform by the Minister of the Baptism Barrier means that Ireland has come a long way over the past two years in ensuring that all children are included in their local school.”

School patron group Educate Together also welcomed the announcement.

“Educate Together has long argued and repeatedly advised successive Government administrations that the practice of faith formation within school hours in a school that is bound to deliver equality to children cannot be legally justified,” a statement read.

“Today’s announcement is welcome given the ever increasing demands for change in the Irish education system.”

The statement added: “Educate Together already works constructively with ETBs in the provision of new Educate Together second-level schools and looks forward to further cooperation in the future.

“The organisation advocates that the ETBs in Ireland should evolve into genuine local State education authorities which deliver a range of services to support all schools on an equal basis.”

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