The Church of Ireland has expressed concern at proposals to alter a rule which allows denominational schools to permeate the school day with their ethos.
In its response to proposals last month by the Advisory Group of the National Forum on Primary School Patronage, the Church of Ireland's Board of Education said that its “major issue of concern” was the proposal to abolish Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools.
Rule 68 states that ''a religious ethos should inform and vivify the whole work of the school''.
In its response to the Advisory Group's proposals, the Church of Ireland states that “our major issue of concern......is the proposal to remove Rule 68 of the Rules for National Schools and the proposal to reduce religious education to a 'discreet subject' within the primary curriculum”.
It says that the Church of Ireland “cannot agree to regulations on religious instruction and/or education in our schools which might restrict the amount of time we might give to teaching children about the Christian faith (as distinct from faith formation)”.
The recommendations of the Advisory Group were presented last month by the group's chairman, Professor John Coolahan.
One of the key recommendations is that schools in 47 selected areas be looked at with a view to transferring some of them from Catholic patronage to other patrons bodies.
Other proposals include setting aside several classes a week to teach primary school children about ethics and world religions; making the display of religious artefacts and art “inclusive of all belief systems in the school”; celebrate the festivals of different religious beliefs; ensuring the communal prayers and hymns are “respectful of the beliefs and culture of all children in the school.