INTO president Sean McMahon said section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Acts should be abolished as it has a “well-documented negative impact” on members of the teaching profession.
Speaking at the INTO’s annual congress in Ennis, Mr McMahon commended the union’s LGBT group for their efforts in documenting this impact, and actively campaigning against the ruling.
“Although we have made great progress, there are a number of issues which still need to be addressed to enable all teachers to be treated equally in their workplaces and in society generally,” he said.
Under Section 37(1), religious-run schools are not considered to be guilty of discrimination if they take action against an employee or prospective employee for “undermining the religious ethos of the institution”.
"The INTO has relentlessly pursued reform after reform within the primary education system" - INTO President Sean McMahon #INTOCongress15— Ceallach Ní Bhriain (Kelly O'Brien) (@Kellingtondawg) April 6, 2015
Mr McMahon said the continued existence of this provision is “unnecessary”.
“Employers in religious-run schools are adequately protected by other parts of the legislation in ensuring that teachers are willing and competent to carry out their jobs in religious-run schools,” he said.
“Section 37.1 causes real anxiety to teachers whose family status, sexual orientation or gender identity may be perceived as being in conflict with the ethos of a school.”
Mr McMahon also highlighted the problem of huge class sizes in urban areas, while rural institutions remain “under-utilised”, and hit out at “an inequitable assault” on smaller schools since Budget 2010.
He criticised the Department of Education’s “misguided” Value for Money report on small schools, which was published earlier this year, and welcomed the Government’s rejection of its recommendations.
Section 37.1 of Employment Equality Acts allows religion run schools to fire or not hire LGBT staff & needs to be repealed #INTOCongress15— Ceallach Ní Bhriain (Kelly O'Brien) (@Kellingtondawg) April 6, 2015
Urging the Government to plan for the education “of all its citizens”, Mr McMahon said the INTO has done a great service to peripheral rural Ireland and, while progress had been made, not all of the issues of small schools have been resolved.
“The rural school is more than just a building in which children are taught,” he said. “It has fundamental sociological importance for rural communities. The echo of children’s voices from the schoolyard represents the vibrant sound of the heartbeat of the community. If ever it should cease, rural communities will surely die.”
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