Recent comments reported on CatholicIreland.net by Michael Moriarty, General Secretary of the management body for Ireland’s state-funded Education and Training Boards (the ETBI), are to be welcomed.
Due to the paucity of information on the ‘pilot’ Community National School model to which the ETB is patron, Educate Together welcomes in particular the articulation of Mr Moriarty’s belief that the Community National School (CNS) model is “the next best thing to a school under the patronage of a Church – Catholic or any other”, and that as a result of this, “there is a comfort for the Catholic Church that the school will provide belief nurturing to Catholic students as well as others”.
The articulation of such beliefs helps to move the national conversation along as it reveals that ETBI has a strong vested interest in a particular model of state-funded primary school in which faith formation is still core.
Mr. Moriarty’s view is also entirely consistent with the development of the CNS model to date, given that it was first introduced by the then Minister for Education Mary Hanafin in partnership with Catholic Church authorities. It is a matter of public record that Catholic bishops, in giving their blessing to the CNS model, stressed in 2007 that: “religious instruction and formation of the Catholic children in the faith by a qualified teacher, during the school day would be the minimum non negotiable requirement’” for the newly formed Community National Schools.
Mr. Moriarty’s important clarification this week also demonstrates that the ETBI interest in providing this model of education is strongly at odds with the educational desires of thousands and thousands of parents all across the country who are actively pursuing the establishment of an equality-based schools in their locality for their children.
In Educate Together’s experience, the majority of parents are not against faith formation and most view it as a positive thing, as long as it is freely chosen. Many choose an Educate Together school because they want their children to experience the diversity of belief and culture that is part of modern society. They choose Educate Together schools in the knowledge that faith formation classes can take place after school hours if arranged between parents and local parish or faith group. Children are also supported and encouraged to learn about and develop appreciation and respect for people of Abrahamic faiths along with the worldviews of Humanism, Buddhism and Atheism in Educate Together schools. The model of education offered through Educate Together schools is one whereby children are not identified according to their faith, but whose identity is celebrated and respected.
Educate Together recently welcomed the commitment in the programme for government to addressing the need for ‘multi- and non-denominational’ education. This need is growing more urgent as more and more parents express their preference for Educate Together schools. Read Educate Together full statement on this here.