6 year old Infants in Irish schools taught that ‘Mary says ‘YES’!

As part of the new Catholic religion course ‘Grow in Love’, six year old infants in Irish schools are being taught that ‘Mary says YES’! to God ‘working through her’ by making her pregnant, despite Mary being afraid, confused and not understanding what was going on.

Mary looks like a little girl in the picture that is to be displayed in all classrooms. When Mary says ‘YES’!, she is sitting on her bed looking startled, it is nighttime, and there is a little kitten with a heart on it beside her on the floor.

This is an extraordinary and dangerous message to give to young children. ‘SAY YES’!, even if you are afraid and confused. Just trust someone that comes to your bed in the night.

Of all organisations, the Catholic Church should know that we have higher standards of child protection today than were common when this myth was first invented two thousand years ago, at a time when Jewish girls were typically betrothed for marriage at about twelve years of age.

The ‘Grow in Love’ religion course is based on the Catholic Preschool and Primary Religious Education Curriculum. The Catholic Church sought and received approval from the Holy See for its use in publicly funded Irish National Schools. This approval is called a “Decree of Recognitio“.

The Religion book for Senior Infants describes this section as;

“The Angel Gabriel comes to Mary”

Young children are expected to complete a maze to help Gabriel to find his way to Mary, who is portrayed as a child in her bed at night, and then the children have to trace out the word ‘YES’.

Grow in Love2-6

The Teachers’s manual describes how to explain this section to young children. Teachers are to explain to small girls that Mary’s ‘YES’! made it all possible, even though she did not understand, was afraid and confused.

She just ‘trusted’ and said ‘YES’! Teachers are also expected to tell children that Mary’s ‘YES’, meant that God would ‘work through her’ and she would become pregnant with Jesus.

The text describes Mary as a young woman, despite portraying her as a little girl without adult characteristics, but the message of saying ‘Yes!’ while being afraid and confused is dangerous regardless of the age of the character.

Grow in Love4-8

Grow in Love3-7

The vast majority of publicly funded National schools in Ireland are controlled by the Catholic church and atheist/secular families have no choice but to send their children to these schools. Many atheist/secular families do not opt their children out of religion classes in these schools because they are worried that their children will feel isolated and different. Other parents don’t opt their children out because they see no point as religion is integrated into all subject under the curriculum anyway (Rule 68/Primary School Curriculum).

If parents decide to opt out their children from the religion class they are responsible for their supervision. Our children are still left sitting at the back of the class absorbing the Catholic Church message: ‘SAY YES’!, even if you are afraid and confused. Just trust someone that comes in the night.

46 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ashley October 16, 2015

    As a British Citizen resident in Ireland, I’ve always been a confused and appalled by the Church’s input into the schooling here, but it’s never had any impact on my life before.

    Now I’m the father to an Irish son (Who will not be baptised into any faith) and as we start to look at school options I’ve learned that the situation is 100 times worse than I ever thought, and the strangle hold the Catholic Church suddenly has a huge impact on my life.

    I’ve never felt discriminated against before (Although Irish people assuming I’m a Protestant because of my English accent gets a little tedious), but what happens in the Primary Schools of Ireland is nothing short of discrimination and a breach of our human rights.

    We’ll be opting for Educate Together (We’re luckily enough to have that option where we are), although I can’t help but feel that the “Multi-Denominational” ethos is a watered down cop-out to avoid upsetting the Church/Masses. Anyhow it has to be better than having my son receive such blatant indoctrination a School work. Disgusting.

    Reply
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      Yuri Nall October 17, 2015

      DERR! You question cults? The rules are there to feed your insatiable lust to feel different, better! I’m continually amazed (since age 7) at the mind-numbingly boring cretinous diatribe of pathetic fat, ageing, wannabe-never-were tribal/herd driven insecure failed male gladiators running religions (and their self-subjugating women) vicariously living their puerile wet-dream power-lust fantasies; AT SOCIETIES’ EXPENSE. ALL RELIGION is business! Start with the fundamentals, it’s not ‘The god Delusion’ it’s the god lie! In the beginning……… there was good, not god! http://www.origintheism.org/ Get with the facts!

      Reply
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      eoinkenobi December 01, 2015

      It’s true, the term ‘multi-denominational’ was exactly that – a sop to allow the organisation to be recognised at all in this priest-ridden country. It is going to be changed to ‘equality-based’, which most of us Educate Together patrons will prefer I reckon (though maybe I’m just in my own little bubble), but this will take time.

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      Ali August 15, 2017

      My understanding of the “multi-denominational” ethos of the Educate Together national schools is due to a department of education regulation/requirement that all school must provide some form of religious education or ethical guidance. I can’t quote the exact rule, but my son attends an Educate Together national school and there is not a sniff of the Catholic ethos, and no sense that it’s a watered down version of any thing. It’s a very positive, proactive approach towards educating children and developing responsible members of society; The school uses equality, respect for all, democratic principles, parental involvement and an inclusive approach to get the job done. They don’t simply offer an “alternative” to the typical Catholic school. It is a very well thought-out approach. And the time that would be spent on faith based instruction in other schools is used to discuss many different traditions and philosophies and kids do yoga and meditation among other activities. Catholics and children of all (and no) religions learn side by side. I think it works beautifully.

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      Bea ONeill September 16, 2017

      Well said, as an irish person born and raised here all my life it’s heartbreaking to live this life with its Catholic indoctrination left right side centre
      I have not gotten my children baptised or any other stuff in their school year’s , eg communion etc etc
      And very glad I didn’t as it’s made my children strong young adults now.
      I always made sure to send in notes to remind teacher’s that my children were not to take part in Catholic religion class and they did what I asked.
      It’s definitely indoctrination and it’s disgusting in this day and age that they think they can try to force this down on to us
      Be strong parents and say no to the largest paedophile ring in the world

      Reply
  2. Avatar
    frances egan October 16, 2015

    That is just awful unheard of

    Reply
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    Therese OSullivan October 16, 2015

    The “indoctrination ” has no effect if it is not reinforced in the home
    I knew at age 7 that what was being told to us did not make sense
    Had no effect on my children and grandchildren

    Reply
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      Dylan October 17, 2015

      Why is the word indoctrination in inverted commas? The situation in Irish primary schools is a prime example of indoctrination.

      Merriam-Webster: to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.
      Oxford: The process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.

      “has no effect if it is not reinforced in the home”

      What’s the point then?

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      Mary McQuinn August 14, 2017

      Theresa O’Sullivan, my experience supports your view. My children were immersed in the catholic indoctrination in school and were free to take it or leave it. I saw it as part of the culture. No effect. In a time of diversity I think children should not be segregated. Why shouldn’t they learn academic subjects and play sports together and learn to live in a diverse world. This issue must be sorted.

      Reply
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      Alan Simpson August 15, 2017

      I have friends with young children who have had their kids say they are bad people for not believing in God due to things they have been taught at school, your personal experience isn’t everyone’s, try to think outside your own bubble once in a while.

      Reply
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    Nicky Fitzgerald October 17, 2015

    I have to say I agree with Astley on many levels. The root of the problem however may be a trait this is in my opinion endemic in all religious teachings. If anybody believes implicitly in the teachings of any belief structure it seems in my opinion to blind them to the possibility of misinterpretation or even abuse of ideals within that belief structure. Just because an analogy was apt in a simpified manner two thousand or even two hundred years ago there is no guarantee that it will be relevant today regardless of the fervour sometimes associated with adherents of established belief systems. Christianity and Islam are prime examples, each preach from a belief perspective that in my opinin fails to recognise the advancements in human rights, particularly in relation to gender equality. This in itself should trigger alarm bells in the mind of any nonindoctrinated person but when taken in conjunction with the the attitude and record of these major belief structures towards outsiders it is perhaps understandable that present teachings are sadly socially and inept. Pardon the digression but we speak of the problems associated with catholicism in Ireland and control of the educational institutions by the Church because this is obviously of primary relevance to us however the same problems exist in each society where any particular religious belief system is prevalent. I am not an atheist however I strongly believe that no religion can exist as a positive entity without a deeply embedded desire for tolerance towards non-adherents to that belief structure.

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    • Avatar
      Emily August 20, 2017

      Can I quote you?
      That was such a well written explanation of religious tolerance.

      Reply
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    Patrick October 17, 2015

    @Ashley I can assure you that some Irush people like me feel exactly the same way so it’s nothing to do with your nationality. Unfortunately where I live there is no ET school so I will have to take my son out of class and run the risk of his isolation. It’s a disgrace.

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  6. Avatar
    Sorcha October 17, 2015

    I am 26 now, I was taken out if religion class by my parents when I was in Primary and Secondary school. I just want to reassure parents here that though when I was in school, almost no one didn’t do religion class, and I was only one of four people (including my brother) in the whole school not being forced through religious indoctrination, I never felt isolated because of it. My parents put in effort to give me an unbiased view of religion and a basic understanding of Catholicism without any pressure to follow it. Because of this I never felt left out. I am proud to say I survived sitting out of religion class without any scars and want to reassure you that your kids will be fine too. I also hope that when I have my own children it wont have to be as hard for my children to opt out of religious teaching as it was for my parents to insist on their children’s right not to be taught Catholicism in a public school.

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    Sabrina Devine October 17, 2015

    This is horrible way of teaching children about consent. Why are we letting schools being in the control of the catholic church? Its stuff like this that makes me ashamed of being Irish.

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    Joanne October 17, 2015

    @Therese O’Sullivan – whether the indoctrination had any effect on you isn’t really the point, though, is it? The point of this article is that, encapsulated within the new RE programme for primary schools are messages for everyday life that are downright dangerous. In addition to this, people responding to the text are pointing out that they have little option but to send children to schools where this nonsense is peddled as fact when presumably they would rather their child’s time was spent doing something more productive or creative.

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    Jo Dorlando October 17, 2015

    I think this is disgraceful. Is there no home-schooling support in Eire?
    I would get together with like-minded parents and start a home-school.

    Reply
  10. Avatar
    Seosamh O Duinn October 18, 2015

    Jo
    Perhaps you do not know it is a criminal offence to educate your children in your home if you live in the Republic of Ireland. Legislation supporting the inalienable right to educate your children in your home which is enshrined in the 1937 Constitution of Ireland is in Education Welfare Act which was designed to replace the Truancy Act and therefore deals with the criminal activity of neglecting to educate your children rather than the Education Act which should deal with the rights of children to receive education and the rights of parents to choose how they preform their duty to provide that education and the duty of the State to support the parents by providing funding for the education chosen by the parents.
    The people who voted in the “children’s referendum ” passed the duties of “CARER OF LAST RESORT ” from the parents to the State so the State can now decided what education the children need and how it will be provided and how much funding will be provided.
    As the right to education is an inalienable right of a child it imposes a duty on the parents which gives the parents the inalienable right to educate their children because the duty is exclusive to the parents and cannot be passed on – the parents must provide education for their children either by themselves or by others -.

    Instead of the Education act

    Reply
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      Karenkelly October 29, 2015

      No offence intended Seosamh, but the whole point of this article is to avoid spreading confusion by telling vague and unsupported “untruths” (especially to children) I believe it’s important to set a few of your facts straight here as your remarks may inadvertently frighten someone away from trying “home education” as an option for their child and family here in Ireland. It is NOT a criminal offence to educate your children at home here in Ireland as you suggest, and many people do so quite legally, and exercise their right to do so as provided by the Irish Constitution as “the primary educators” of their children. So home educators are not criminals, just so’s you know. Anyone can do it. The state has an obligation to the child however to ensure they are receiving a “certain minimum education” and under the Education Welfare Act( I forget the date, but fairly recent 2005 maybe, but certainly predates the Children’s Referendum you refer to) so since then it’s true home educating families are obliged to register with the state (formerly the old NEWB but currently, with Tusla) once a child reaches 6 years old. That’s just FYI to anyone reading. Home ed in Ireland: It’s not illegal, anyone can do it, it’s a great option for some families including my own. (Of course, the schools will never tell you that!!) There are several home ed community orgs nationwide for more info on this option, all voluntary and member run, some are Christian ethos but not necessarily catholic, some are totally secular . Too much religion in our local rural school was one reason we opted for home ed…don”t practice any “religion” in our house, but have a mild interest in all of them as budding anthropologists! This latest “offering” to school going children though is scary …couldn’t make it up!

      Reply
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    Alan Gilbert October 19, 2015

    As an Irish Anglican ( Church of Ireland) I developed a healthy respect for the Marion doctrine while working with Mother Theresa’s missionaries of charity. The methodology applied here is unprofessional of Roman Catholic teachers. Saying Yes to the Holy Spirit is not the same as saying Yes to sexual exploitation of minors, I suggest there is a lack of mysticism present in this teaching.

    Reply
  12. Avatar
    C October 19, 2015

    I’m an RE teacher and although I understand the concerns raised here, I think we need to take a step back and look at it in context. I agree that there are probably other ways to teach this topic, more “appropriate” ways, but some of the comments above are verging on pure secular fundamentalism (something that we as a world are currently trying to battle, Syria for example?) which is even more dangerous to kids than someone “trying” to put a Catholic belief (and a very important one at that) into context for a group of 6 year olds. The image of Mary as a child makes the story more relevant, and I’m sure the church are not trying to condone ANY of the really disgusting and inappropriate ideas that some of you think our very well qualified teachers are putting into your students lives. It is unfortunate how much schools do rely on RE in Ireland (hence why I teach abroad), but any teacher worth their salt would ensure that the story is taught within the context, relevance, and allow students to come up with their own understanding …. That’s “Religious Education”, which is what the Irish primary curriculum is, it’s not “Cathetics” as some of you think. Maybe parents should also go about looking at the curriculum and seeing what is actually being taught. Maybe the issue here is how teachers are teaching this topic, and not about the actual story? In fact, I think this whole post is just creating drama for the sake of it.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Michelle Rogers October 25, 2015

      C, if you teach abroad you likely have no understanding that ‘formation of the faith’ and cathetics are at the heart of all Irish Catholic schools. This is what Bishop Brendan Leahy, Chair of the Bishops’ Council for Catechetics (!) said when he launched the new Catholic Preschool and Primary School Religious Education Curriculum for Ireland (2015), and its related religious education programme Grow in Love:

      “Written in conformity to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in accordance with the vision outlined in the Irish Directory for Catechesis, Share the Good News, the Curriculum provides a structured outline of what religious education as an academic discipline in Catholic schools contributes to the Catholic education and formation of young children at pre-school and primary level. Parents and teachers, academics, school leaders and parish communities have already welcomed this development. The Bishops of Ireland hope this Curriculum will provide a new impetus for the religious education and faith formation of Catholic children in the whole island of Ireland in the twenty-first century.”

      In addition, there are other aspects of the curriculum where the clear instruction to teachers is that only the Catholic view of morality will be taught and no other views will be tolerated or respected in the classroom. Please get real.

      Reply
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      Peter Sanders November 19, 2015

      It seems blindingly obvious here that these small impressionable children are having these “stories” taught to them as history. Not as fables, not as fiction, but as truthful representations of a little girl getting pregnant and being reassured by a stranger that it’s perfectly OK. Why can the “RE” teacher not see how inappropriate this is ?
      Perhaps it’s because they are part of the problem.

      Reply
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      James Casserly August 14, 2017

      C, may I ask why you believe “we as a world” are trying to battle secular fundamentalism? And how is Syria an example of this? The fact you are an RE teacher would indicate to me you have a vested interest in keeping religion alive. I would think the world would be well to battle fundamentalism of any sort, but secularism by its nature hardly lends itself to fundamentalism.

      Reply
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    Rach October 19, 2015

    I think that this whole thing is an over reaction. They’re teaching about saying yes to God, not to say yes to every single some stranger requests something of them. It’s up to the teachers to make that clear, and tend to have teachers have common sense and a lot of them have their own kids, have a bit of faith in the education system. And if you’re worried about a stranger appearing in your child’s bedroom then I think you have bigger problems than what is being taught in schools…like your home security system or your ability to filter the people you let in your house. Keeping your child safe if your responsibility, only let people you trust near your kids.

    Reply
  14. Avatar
    R October 19, 2015

    Well said C. I had religion class in school and unless it’s changed – religion class in secondary school was nothing remotely about religion at all- it discussed the right and wrong doings of people etc it was merely civic and social education on how you yourself would like to be treated!

    Primary school yes, we had at 1 (we were a very small school) pupil that didn’t take it and actually it didn’t leave them isolated, moreover that person was extremely happy as the rest were all jealous cause they done homework while we had RE- so just opt off off religion class- if you could do it then you can do it now!!!also more importantly on the subject WE WERE TAUGHT WHAT OUR RELIGION WAS ABOUT- about RIGHT and WRONG -we went to mass- had christenings, communion, confirmation and confessions and it has never done us any harm. Never in ANY way, shape or form were we thought to discriminate against anyone – or that we shouldn’t be gay or lesbian. To prove my point (i know now that there are apparently things in the bible that say no you can’t do this and that, like what I have just mentioned and if you gave me a million pound I wouldn’t be able to tell you what part of religion says that, because our religion class was not taught to us to tell us what we should or shouldn’t be!!!) We were thought that there is a faith for us no matter who or what we are, no matter what we’ve done, to stand up for ourselves and our beliefs (beliefs, not as in religion and God, but as how to be a good person ie don’t beat people up, help people) and that we could pray for God’s help!

    Though I think the above ‘Mary says Yes’ is very silly!

    Anyway, we all go to church, (maybe not weekly)have gay friends or are gay, couples live together outside marriage, have children before marriage, divorced people – (can’t think of any more)…my point is, to me anyway, In religion class i don’t believe we were ever told these things were wrong to do- ie as in a set of rules that we HAD to live by!

    Please don’t attack me for anything that might be wrote badly in the above, only trying to help having taken the class! I am not a religious freak but I do have faith in God, it’s nice to have something to believe in when the shit hits the fan!!! But as I said, I don’t believe in man’s interpretation of parts of the bible – as that’s all it is at the end of the day!!! And that’s what I took from religion class!

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    Grainne October 19, 2015

    The wording and message in this book is dangerous. However as a non believer I would have a problem opting my kids out of Religion class. What is wrong with being different, or thinking differently. It is a good lesson for kids to learn that it’s okay to be different. The belief system and general culture in the home will override the more subtle religious references at school. If parents don’t have the strongest influence or input, that is a major problem. The world will always be trying to influence your kids, sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. Be the voice of reason in your child’s head and they’ll be fine. Religion can help influence some strong morals. If they grow up in a progressive home they’ll learn to reject the hogwash for what it is.

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    Ingrid Masterson October 21, 2015

    Perhaps this topic is being introduced at too young an age before children are old enough to have the kinds of discussion mentioned above, which would enable them to discriminate between demands, pressures or seductions by an external other person, and the promptings of an inner wisdom coming from within themselves in a context of freedom.
    Certainly the visuals showing such definite child-like immaturity would give me serious cause for concern.
    I.M.

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  17. Avatar
    Glue Guru October 21, 2015

    What stupidness is this? More rubbish from the Catholic Church? Are kids again being groomed…..this time emotional grooming?

    Consent & accept without asking why?

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  18. Avatar
    Mark Moore October 23, 2015

    Gosh, that does sound peculiarly Catholic. Is this what you would call “Grooming”?

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  19. Avatar
    steve white October 24, 2015

    has anyone seen the video?

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  20. Avatar
    Stickerbrick November 05, 2015

    Six year-olds are not infants

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      Atheist November 17, 2015

      @stickerbrick: Title doesn’t mean that they are infants, it means they are like infants. There is no difference between infant and 6 year old when its’ talking about sex. Stop posing like you found big secret. Look at the point.

      Reply
  21. Avatar
    Mark Quinn November 19, 2015

    What a load of hogwash, you wouldn’t insult Islam like this – you’d be in court or worse!

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  22. Avatar
    Peter Sanders November 21, 2015

    It seems blindingly obvious here that these small impressionable children are having these “stories” taught to them as history. Not as fables, not as fiction, but as truthful representations of a little girl getting pregnant and being reassured by a stranger that it’s perfectly OK. Why can the “RE” teacher not see how inappropriate this is ?
    Perhaps it’s because they are part of the problem.

    Reply
  23. Avatar
    SKLYJD November 25, 2015

    The fact that it is pure fiction as is all religious teaching should be enough to remove it from the schools permanently.

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  24. Avatar
    eoinkenobi December 01, 2015

    My six-year-old thinks the local priest is called ‘God’. So you can see how badly this could turn out.

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  25. Avatar
    John Plummer August 22, 2016

    Indoctrinating a child into any religion is child abuse. It is perpetrated by adults who value the comfort they derive from raising little religious clones of themselves over their DUTY to raise free thinking young adults who have the mental ability and desire to decide for themselves which, if any, religion to follow!

    Reply
  26. Avatar
    Mary Foley August 26, 2016

    I am a catholic grandmother, my children were educated in the UK. I wish to point out that over there catholics and non catholics alike are falling over themselves to get their children into catholic schools, all which have long waiting lists. Every Easter in some churches you will find non catholics getting baptised after under going many classes, all just so they can apply to catholic schools for their children. WHY all this if catholic schools are so bad. Secondly my grandchildren attend a small irish country catholic school, pupils number 40 children, but the number of children and their family attending mass regularly in the parish is 5 which I think shows home has the biggest influence, nothing is ever said at school to those who don’t attend. RE doesn’t play a big part in school. BUT having said all that I do not agree with the” MARY SAYS YES” lesson

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Mandie YOUNG August 29, 2016

      In response to Mary Foley’s comments about the rush to get children into catholic schools here in the UK.

      Firstly, parents are encouraged to use the state endorsed “league tables” to judge the quality of education in their areas. These tables are based on scores issued by OFSTED: a large part of the grading is the success or failure of the school to achieve SAT/GCSE/A Level/public examination targets. In order to achieve these targets, many schools maniupulate the figures by preventing chidren taking these examinations (not SATS) as they will “probably not pass” and therefore damage the targets.

      Catholic schools in the UK are in a minority. They are also able, as establishments with a religious identity, to SELECT students, and many do on the basis of KS2 SAT results. This means that even if you are a non-catholic living in the catchment area, your child does not automatically get an allocated place at the nearest school. The only way for a non-catholic to access these “top performing schools” is to “prove” a christian committment. This can be achieved by attendance at another denomination over a period of time, certified by a minister, service within the church by parents (including bell ringing, choir, flower arranging, refreshments, etc), as well as being baptised, christened or received into the denomination. It has nothing to do with beief: indeed, the figures show that once parents achieve the school place for their child, the “committment” often fades.

      League tables only give one aspect of the education on offer. It does not take into account, for example, a high number of disabled students, or children from refugee or minority communities, or even the proportion of children whose first language is not English. Don’t be fooled into thinking that parents fight for catholic school places because they are excellent. They fight for them because the rest of the education system is so broken, that they believe that their kids at least have a chance there. It comes at a price, and that price – I believe – is integrity.

      Reply
  27. Avatar
    Shouse October 17, 2016

    Six year olds are not infants.

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      Helen OShea October 19, 2016

      The legal age for children to go to school is set at 6 though most go before that. The class they enter is junior infants followed by senior infants.

      Reply
  28. Avatar
    Cherie September 13, 2017

    Let’s put aside the Religious citation in this article. I am more worried and alarmed that 6 year old children are been taught to except a stranger coming to their room at night, that they may be scared but must say yes and become pregnant!

    Reply
  29. Avatar
    T. Corbett September 13, 2017

    There’s a great deal of hysteria here. Just a couple of things: Most teachers in Ireland are just people. They reflect and hold the same beliefs as the majority of the population. This would appear to be at best a passive adherence to religion. I’ve been teaching nearly 40 years, and yes, I teach religion, but the number of teachers in schools who are actually ‘religious’ (whatever that means) had declined in line with the decline in religion among the general population. There is a spike at Communion and Confirmation; but it’s more about ceremony than sacrament these days. When I teach religion (to Fifth Class, at the moment) the children ask searching and penetrating questions about the meaning, nature and existence of God. They don’t take it on passively. I see my role not as indoctrinator, but as someone telling them the rules of the game. Whether they want to play the game is up to them and their parents. It’s none of my business. What I do regret is that the children will have difficulty accessing the cultural aspects of religion, of understanding quite a lot of western civilisation. They will look at it as strangers from the outside. This is an ethnic and cultural concern, rather than a religious one. So I don’t think there are hordes of teachers wearing scapulars and rosaries ready to make your children say Hail Marys until their noses bleed. There may still be a few, but that too will pass.

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  30. Avatar
    Alleyn. September 14, 2017

    I just think that it’s very sad that the Roman Catholic Church has turned so many people away from their faith in Jesus.

    Reply

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