Saturday 16 December 2017

Same-sex marriage issues to be covered in religious classes

Jan O'Sullivan
Jan O'Sullivan

Primary school children will be taught about same-sex marriage under radical changes to the curriculum.

The move has been described as making "utter sense" by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN).

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan said she believed children would be taught about same-sex marriage as part of the new religion and ethics course.

A consultation process on the new draft curriculum for primary schools will begin in October.

The minister said she believed it will take account of the result of the same-sex marriage referendum.


Reacting to the development, Tiernan Brady, a policy director with GLEN, said civil marriage equality is the law of the land.

"It makes utter sense that if you have a civics and ethics class that the law in relation to state marriage would be taught," he said.

"I think as well as that it is a wonderfully positive thing for all pupils to hear that the State does not discriminate against gay and lesbian relationships, and that decision was taken by such a huge majority in a public referendum.

"As part of a course which is about ethics, it sends a very clear message that ethically the State treats all adults equally in relation to marriage."

Ms O'Sullivan was speaking about the new curriculum on "education about religions and beliefs and ethics".

"I haven't seen the curriculum yet, but I would imagine that it will look at the factual situations of, for example, marriage equality, but also of religions," she said in an interview with the Sunday Business Post.

Schools are allowed to spend up to two-and-a-half hours per week on teaching religion.

Ms O'Sullivan said the new curriculum would not only be about learning the belief systems of different religions.

"I think it would be more about how do you live well in society, and how do you behave in a way that makes you a good citizen or a good neighbour," she said.

Catholic primary schools will still be allowed to prepare children for communion and confirmation, but they will also have to teach the new state curriculum when it comes into effect.

Last May, Ireland became the first country in the world to bring in same-sex marriage by popular vote.

The issue about teaching children about same sex-marriage did raise its head during the referendum campaign, with 'No' campaigners warning that a 'Yes' vote would change teaching on marriage in schools.


However, 'Yes' campaigners had insisted that teachers follow the set curriculum which is in place, and that was not going to change as a result of the referendum.

Meanwhile, Ms O'Sullivan also said that the country was out of step with other European countries in not having a central religious and ethical curriculum.

The new curriculum was recommended by the forum on patronage and pluralism that was set up by former education minister Ruairi Quinn.

Separately, Ms O'Sullivan revealed that it is a priority for her to reduce class sizes.

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