Cllr Dermot Looney, a Labour Party representative on County Dublin Vocational Education Committee (VEC), has raised “serious concerns” with the system of religious education in the primary schools run by the VEC. Cllr Looney, who is also a primary school teacher, has asked that, in light of this week’s Prime Time report on the segregation of children for religious reasons at the two schools in question, the VEC Committee debate the issue at their upcoming April meeting.
County Dublin VEC, which is responsible for a variety of educational institutes, centres and schools in South Dublin County, Fingal and part of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, currently runs two national schools, Scoil Choilm and Scoil Ghráinne, both of which are in Dublin 15. The schools are part of a Government plan to roll out a state-run community school model, separate to the predominant model of Catholic patronage.
“Like many parents, teachers and members of the public – and indeed figures in the Church hierarchy – I believe the predominance of Catholic schools is a historical hangover from which Ireland needs to recover,” said Cllr Looney. “Having seen at first hand the success of the VEC model of community education at second level, I was very positive about the role the VEC could play in rolling out the new model of community primary education.”
“However, the revelations in the Prime Time report that children are segregated for religious education into groups of Catholics, Other Christians, Muslims and Others are very worrying indeed. The report’s suggestions of Church involvement, either official or unofficial, in the drawing up of a religious curriculum for these schools further dashes hopes of a new dawn in community education. It is no coincidence that the author of the most commonly-used religion programme in Catholic schools, Alive-O!, has created the new religious curriculum for the VEC schools.”
“Faith transmission is already the norm in the vast majority of schools. I believe that the new VEC model, which is due to be rolled out in hundreds more schools in the decades ahead, need to move away from this approach,” said Cllr Looney.
“The teaching of religion itself should not be a problem. Educate Together schools, which are multi-denominational but do not segregate children, operate an Ethical Education curriculum under which all religions are taught along with issues of democracy, justice and environmental sustainability, while facilitating religious education, including preparation for sacraments, after school. Following the recent revelations, a similar programme should, I believe, be adopted by the VEC for the two schools already in operation, and those to come in the future,” concluded Cllr Looney.