Religion has a fundamental place in our school

Faith-based option must be protected.

Fine Gael Dun Laoghaire Deputy, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, has today (Wednesday) said that religion has a place in our education system and that parents should continue to have the option of sending their children to faith-based schools.

“Contrary to some arguments that are being put forward at the moment, I fundamentally disagree that religion has no place in our schools in a modern democracy.

“Education is about much more than just imparting knowledge or preparing students for exams or future employment. Our schools have a central role to play in the moral, social and spiritual development of our children.

“A narrow focus on academic skills, with little more on offer, speaks to our children in the coldest and most basic way. Schools should teach our children to have a sense of community and a sense of belonging; religious education provides just that.

“The ethos of Catholic, Church of Ireland, Jewish or Muslim based faiths, far from having a negative impact, are holistic and ensure the harmonious development of the whole person. The pastoral care given by teachers adds to that.

“A Council for Research and Development report entitled ‘Factors Determining School Choice’, found that 70% of parents considered the daily prayer and the celebration of religious festivals and events as important factors when considering where to send children to school. Most parents also believed that a plurality of faiths and practices in the classroom enhanced their child’s education.

“It is my firm belief that religious education, regardless of faith, should continue to be provided in our schools. Any notion that Boards of Management in Catholic or Church of Ireland schools are undemocratic should be dismissed out of hand, as patrons only appoint two nominees on the board of eight members. The remaining vacancies are recruited at parish level and appointees do not receive out of pocket expenses, unlike VEC Committee board members, showing a deep sense of commitment to the running of our schools.

“Religion has a fundamental role to play in the education of our children. Any notion that this role should be diminished would, in my view, be to the detriment of our students and their future education.

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