Less than half of the families whose children attend Church of Ireland schools are Protestant, research has found.
The survey of 2,143 families from most of the 175 Church of Ireland primary schools found that 22.5% of parents were Catholic, 20% came from an unspecified Christian background, and 7.4% of families said they belonged to no religion. Families from the main Protestant groupings make up 38%, with another 6% being from other Protestant groups including Pentecostalists and smaller churches.
The findings show academic standards, along with the atmosphere, care and individual attention given to pupils, were more important than faith issues when parents decided to send their children to a Protestant school.
The survey was sponsored by the Church of Ireland Primary Schools Managers Association, the Church of Ireland College of Education, and the General Synod Board of Education.
Board of education member Dr Ken Fennelly, secretary of the Church of Ireland secondary education committee, said that primary schools under Protestant management did not engage in specific faith formation and religious education was more broadly Christian-based.
“The unique characteristic of Church of Ireland and Protestant primary schools from a religious education point of view is that the teaching of faith formation is recognised to lie with the parish rather than with the school,” he said.
This differs from almost 90% of the country’s 3,300 primary schools which are under Catholic patronage, where faith formation including preparation for sacraments is done during school time.
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