Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Education and Skills
414. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures that have been put in place to allow students exercise their right not to attend religious education in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44582/20]
Under Article 44 of the Constitution and in accordance with Section 30 of the Education Act, 1998, parents have a right to have their children opt out of religious instruction classes if they so wish. It is expected that this right will be upheld by schools on foot of a parental request.
Under the provisions of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018, all schools have new admissions policies, which have been approved by the patron and published on the schools website. The act requires where schools provide religious instruction that they clearly set out in their admission policies the school’s arrangements for students, where the parent or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student, has requested that the student attend the school without attending religious instruction in the school.
The manner in which any school ensures that the right to opt out of religion instruction classes is upheld is a matter for the school concerned. Each individual school must determine the particular arrangements which are most appropriate in its individual circumstances having regard to local issues such as available space, supervision requirements and how the school concerned organises classes etc.
It is important to distinguish religious instruction from the NCCA approved Religious Education subject, where it is offered by a school, must be delivered in the timetabled class periods without any religious instruction or worship of any religion forming any part of class activity. This means that any practice or material that would introduce religious instruction or worship cannot be included in class. This clear separation of religious instruction from the NCCA Religious Education syllabus has the effect of ensuring that withdrawal does not arise for students studying the NCCA Religious Education syllabus where the school provides the subject as part of its normal range of subjects.