Religious Instruction and Worship in Education and Training Board Schools and Colleges

All the various types of Education and Training Board Schools and Colleges in Ireland are obliged to have Religious Instruction and Worship. As far as we are aware at this stage the religious instruction and worship is Catholic.

The ETBs refer to their schools as multi – Denominational. Multi – Denominational, Interdenominational and non-Denominational are not legally defined in Ireland. This can mean that the ETB schools and colleges end up having religious instruction, worship and a religious ethos for one specific religion (Catholic) and still refer to themselves as Multi – Denominational. On the ground many of the ETB multi-Denominational schools are no different that schools with a Catholic ethos.

In this Report we will outline the legal requirements of the ETBs to have religious instruction and worship in all their schools and colleges and to hire religion teachers approved by the relevant religious authority, that is mainly the Catholic Church.

Some of these ETB schools and Colleges also have the State Religious Education course at Junior and Leaving Certificate. This course is not up to human rights standards and in addition these schools combine it with the Guidelines for the Faith Formation and Development of Catholic Students. You can read about the second level State Religious Education Course here

As far as we are aware nearly all ETB schools and colleges make this course compulsory and inform parents that it is suitable for all religions and none.

Parents are never information that this State religion course is combined with Catholic religious instruction, as per the legal obligation of ETBs to ensure that there is religious instruction and worship in all their schools and colleges.

There is a requirement that there is two and a half hours per week for the State Religion course and two to two and a half hours of Religious Instruction. (as per legal requirements). There simply is not 4/5 hours of religious classes per week in ETB schools and colleges.

What is happening on the ground is that  ETB schools and colleges are combining the two Religion courses and making it compulsory for all students.

All ETB schools and colleges are legally obliged to hire teachers of religion that are sanctioned by the relevant religious authority. The reason for this is that that it is Catholic religious instruction that is being taught in these schools and colleges as why else would the relevant religious authority need to sanction a state course in religious education that the State developed for all students.

For minorities this means that it is impossible to get a job teaching a State religion course in ETB schools and colleges without taking the modules on Catholic religious instruction in the Mater Dei Institute (a college of DCU). This is just another indication that ETB schools and colleges are religious and not in the same category as Educate Together schools.

The ETBI have in recent years updated their Articles of Management, non-designated Community Colleges are obliged to hire Religion Teachers approved by the relevant Religious authority and in the case of Catholic religious instruction and worship it is teachers trained by the Mater Dei Institute which is now a college of DCU. In this regard non-designated Community Colleges are obliged to comply with Circular 79 from the Department of Education & Skills.

If parents do manage to opt out their children from religion in ETBs their children do not get an opportunity to choose another subject. Religion is a core subject for all students in ETBs schools and colleges and consequently students that can manage to opt out are left sitting at the back of the class wasting two and a half hours per week.

Many of these ETB schools and college do not permit students that are opted out of religion to study during this time or do their homework. This system is a method of coercion to ensure that religion remains a core subject in ETB schools and colleges. These schools really cannot be described as multi denominational schools or suitable schools and colleges for parents that seek secular education for their children.

 

Three different types of ETB schools and college

1. Designated Community Colleges

The teaching of religion in Designated Community Colleges is as per the model agreement between the ETBs and the relevant religious authority.

The Hiring of religion teachers is as per the Model Agreement as is the Appointment of the Chaplain.

 

2. Non Designated Community Colleges.

The teaching of religion in non Designated Community Colleges is as per Circular 73 of 74. The hiring of teachers of religion is as per circular-1979

 

3. ETB Community Schools,

The teaching of religion in Community schools is as per the Deeds of Trust. The hiring of Religion teachers is as per the Deeds of Trust as is the Appointment of a Chaplain.

 

The Handbook for ETB schools and Colleges can be found here  etbi_bom_handbook_english(1)

 

Overview of the legal requirement in ETBs regarding religion

The Following is an overview of the legal requirements of the ETBs in relation to religious instruction and worship. These legal requirements show clearly that ETBs are required to have religious instruction and worship, and to hire religion teachers sanctioned by the relevant religious authority. These ETB schools and colleges are not in the same category as Educate Together schools. Because these categories are not legally defined ETB schools and colleges can define themselves according to their own standards of what they mean by inclusive and suitable for all.

All ETBs are legally required to comply with any Circular Letters from the Minister for Education.  ETB schools and colleges are obliged to conduct their activities in compliance with any regulations made by the Minister (Section 9 (i) Education Act 1998). Circular 73 of 74 and circular-1979 are such regulations (see non- designated Community Colleges).

 

  1. Designated Community Colleges

 Designated Community Colleges come under the Model Agreement, the ETB is the Patron. The ETBI handbook describes the Model Agreement as follows:-

“‘Model Agreement (Designated) College’ means an ETB school where the management of the school is governed by a specific agreement between the ETB (formerly VEC) and a ‘Trustee Partner’ – the local diocese and/or a religious congregation or other recognised school patron. The Model Agreement refers to the agreement between the ETB and the ‘Trustee Partner’ – an agreement that as well as giving the ‘Trustee Partner’ a role in the management of the school gives the ‘Trustee Partner’ a role in determining the school’s characteristic spirit. While Model Agreement (Designated) Colleges involve a ‘trustee partner’ the ETB is the patron.”(Page 6 ETBI Handbook)

“‘Trustee Partner’ means a recognised school patron who is a party to a model agreement with an ETB for the management of a designated community college. Though the ETB is the sole patron for such a college, the ‘Trustee Partner’ has an explicit role in the management of the school (representation on the board of management and teacher selection panels) and a role in determining the characteristic spirit of the school/college. (Page 7 ETBI Handbook)

 

In 2010 the IVEA informed a Dail Committee that:-

Through the statutory capacity and flexibility of VECs to work with other educational bodies and agencies, VECs have also developed the second level Designated Community College model through co-trusteeship with former patrons, including Catholic and Protestant church authorities. There are 40 such Designated Community Colleges throughout Ireland. In this model, a Deed of Trust provides guarantees in terms of school ethos and culture.

 

The IVEA is now the ETBI.

 Religious Instruction and worship in Designated Community Colleges is as per the model agreement. It states that:-

Religion comes under Section 12 (i) of this Agreement:-

  1. (i) In exercising its general control over the curriculum and conduct of the College the Board shall ensure that there is religious worship and religious instruction for the pupils in the College except for such pupils whose parents make a request in writing to the Principal that those pupils should be withdrawn from religious worship or religious instruction or both religious worship and religious instruction.

(ii) The religious worship attended by any pupil at the College and the religious instruction given to any pupil shall be in accordance with the rights, practice and teaching of the religious denomination to which the pupil belongs. Religious instruction as aforesaid of the order of 2 hours shall be given to all the pupils in the College (except those who are withdrawn from religious instruction in accordance with the provisions of sub-clause (i) of this clause) in each week during which the College is in session.

According to the Model Agreement Religious teachers must be sanctioned by the relevant religious authority:-

vii) For the purposes of satisfying the Selection Committee the Board of Management and the Committee that the selected candidate for appointment would be acceptable to the appropriate religious authority, confirmation of the candidate’s suitability shall be provided by the catechetical inspectorate. The selected candidate shall not be permitted to take up the duties of the post, until the Minister’s formal approval of the appointment has been communicated in writing to the Committee.

The above means that the relevant religious authority has control over the hiring of religion teachers in Designated Community Colleges.

 

  1. Non Designated Community Colleges

These colleges are under the full patronage of the ETB with no religious trustee. They still are required to have religious instruction and worship. They are also required as per circular-1979 to hire religion teachers from the Mater Dei Institute. The Mater Dei Institute is now a college of DCU but it still has a Catholic ethos and it trains teachers to teach Catholic religious instruction.

The ETBI Handbook states that:-

  1. Religious Worship and Instruction

Arrangements in this regard shall be in accordance with DES Circular Letters 73/74 and 7/79 or as so amended. (Page 36)

 

This is an extract from Circular Letter 73/74:-

The following is the extract from Circular Letter 73/74 on Religion in ETB/VEC non-designated Community Colleges.

“10. (a) In exercising its general control over the curriculum and conduct of the school, the board shall ensure that there is religious worship and instruction in the school except for such pupils whose parents make a request in writing to the Principal that these pupils should be withdrawn from religious worship or instruction or both.

(b) The religious worship by any pupil at the school and the religious instruction given to any pupil shall be in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of the religious denomination to which the pupil belongs. At least 2 ½ hrs religious instruction shall be given to all the pupils in the school (except those who are withdrawn from religious instruction in accordance with the provisions of sub paragraph (a) above) in each week in which the school is in session.

(c) If any question arises whether the worship conducted or the instruction is or is not, in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of a religious denomination, that question shall be determined by the competent authority. Such religious worship and instruction be inspected under arrangements made for this purpose by the competent religious authority on such days and on such times and with such notice as may be agreed from time to time by the competent authority and the board.

(d) The Principal shall be immediately responsible for making arrangements for all the religious worship conducted and the instruction given at the school and for the attendance of pupils thereat.

(e) The board shall endeavour to ensure that there are at all times sufficient teachers in the school who are appointed, with the approval of the competent religious authority, to give religious instruction as aforesaid.”

 

  1. ETB Community Schools

Community Schools come under Deeds of Trust and have a shared patronage with a religious trustee. The teaching of religion and the hiring of religion teachers is part of the Deeds of Trust. As far as we are aware most of these schools operate a religious ethos which means that religion is integrated into the curriculum.

According to a Document on the Department of Education’s website Community Schools have a shared patronage with Catholic entities.

Background:

“The Deed of Trust is the legal instrument which governs the establishment and management of a Community School. The Deed of Trust of Community Schools provides that trusteeship/patronage of such schools is exercised by a religious order(s) and/or the local Bishop and the local Vocational Education Committee. While the original Deed dating back to the 1970s provides for the sharing of patronage with other denominations in all instances the joint patronage is with Catholic entities”

 

The Deeds of Trust for Community Schools state that:-

“11. (i) In exercising its general control over the curriculum and conduct of the School, the Board shall ensure that there is religious worship and religious instruction for the pupils in the School except for such pupils whose parents make a request in writing to the Principal that those pupils should be withdrawn from religious worship or religious instruction or both religious worship and religious instruction.

(ii) The religious worship attended by any pupil at the School and the religious instruction given to any pupil shall be in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of the religious denomination to which the pupil belongs. Religious instruction as aforesaid of the order of 2 hours shall be given to all the pupils in the school (except those who are withdrawn from religious instruction in accordance with the provisions of sub-clause (i) of this clause) in each week during which the school is in session.

(iii) If any question arises whether the religious worship conducted or the religious instruction given at the school is or is not in accordance with the rites, practice and teaching of a religious denomination, that question shall be determined by the competent religious authority.

(iv) The Principal shall be immediately responsible for making arrangements for all the religious worship conducted and for the religious instruction given at the School and for the attendance of pupils thereat.

(v) The Minister and the Board shall ensure that there are at all times sufficient teachers in the school to give religious instruction. Depending on circumstances and requirements, teachers of religion may be appointed in a permanent whole-time, temporary whole-time or part-time capacity.

(vi) For purposes of the appointment of a teacher of religion on a permanent whole-time basis, the same procedures shall apply as apply to the permanent whole-time appointment of a teacher of any other subject. The post shall be advertised in the public press, the applications shall be considered by a duly constituted Selection Committee, the Selection Committee shall make a recommendation to the Board of Management which shall submit the proposed appointment for the formal approval of the Minister.

(vii) For purposes of satisfying the Selection Committee, the Board of Management and the Minister that the selected candidate for appointment would be acceptable to the appropriate religious authority, confirmation of the candidate’s suitability shall be provided by the catechetical inspectorate.  The selected candidate shall not be permitted to take up the duties of the post, until the Minister’s formal approval of the appointment had been communicated in writing to the Board of Management.

(viii) In the event that at any time a permanent whole-time teacher of Religion, lay or religious, should cease to be regarded as suitable for that purpose by the catechetical inspectorate, then the Board shall take steps to transfer the teacher to other teaching duties for which he is qualified. It will then be the immediate responsibility of the Board to make alternative arrangements for religious instruction in consultation with the catechetical inspectorate.

(ix) Recognition as temporary whole-time or part-time teachers of religion may be accorded to priests and to any other persons, lay or religious who are suitably qualified for the purpose. The Board shall be authorised to make such appointments with the formal approval of the Minister, on the nomination of the appropriate religious authority and to terminate them, if and then necessary, in accordance with the wishes of that authority.

(x) The Board of Management will appoint a Chaplain nominated by the competent Religious Authority who shall be employed outside the normal quota of the school. He shall be a full-time member of the staff and shall be paid a salary equivalent to that of a teacher in the school.

(xi) Inspection of the teaching of religion shall be the responsibility of the catechetical inspectorate. Such inspection shall be carried out in consultation with the Board and shall be conducted in accordance with agreed procedures.”

 

Conclusion

All ETB schools and colleges have religious instruction and worship. Community Schools and Designated Community Colleges also have a Chaplain appointed and sanctioned by the relevant religious authority.  Religion teachers must also be sanctioned by the relevant religious authority. Many of these schools and colleges integrate religion into the daily life of the schools as the ethos is a reflection of the relevant religious trustee.

For secular parents and religious minorities these schools are simply Catholic schools and we see no difference between them. They are simply not in the same category as Educate Together schools even though they may refer to themselves as multi-Denominational.

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