A few weeks ago Michelle McKeever, a young teacher, was awarded compensation of €12,697.00 by the Equality Tribunal (case report) because the offer of a job in Knocktemple National School, Virginia, Co Cavan was withdrawn because she did not have the correct certificate required to teach religious education in Catholic National Schools in Ireland. When she was offered the position she was told that it would not be a problem that she had not got the certificate. However, the Board of Management declined to approve the post and the job offer was withdrawn.
The time has come to reduce the influence of the Catholic church in the running of our schools. It will not an easy undertaking given that half the school properties in the country are owned, or part-owned, by the ‘Religious’ but times have changed and the taxpayer should no longer fund religious education in our National Schools. State funds should not be used to fund any religious education training in our Teacher Training Colleges either. And the State should not have had to pay the compensation award to Ms McKeever. The money should have come from the pocket of the school Patron.
Some people may disagree but a secular school system is the fairest way of educating young people equally. Many parents have become lazy and expect the school system to provide religious education and prepare their children for the Sacraments. But it is absolutely the parents’ responsibility to provide the religious instruction for their children and the school should not be involved at all. Parents at the ‘Educate Together’ schools manage to do it so it is not an impossible undertaking.
Removing religious education from the school timetable will free up a considerable amount of time which can be used to improve the literacy and numeracy of our younger children. The latest PISA report suggests that our children are in dire need of an improved education. Do our politicians have the balls to take on such a task?