Schools use religion to separate children
REVEALED: Minister ignored advice on inclusive teaching
THE Department of Education ignored its own experts to insist that children be separated in school based on their religion.
The new Community National Schools were been hailed as "child-centred, inclusive and multi-belief" for primary school children in Dublin and surrounding counties.
But it has now emerged that in 2008, the Department looked for guidance about separating children for religious teaching in the development of a curriculum for the new schools.
The Department under Batt O'Keeffe turned to the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for its views on the matter.
The NCCA warned that separating children in infant classes based on religion, for even part of a school day, "ran counter to research on how children settled and built a foundation for success at school".
They said "integration is vital for a child's well being and successful learning".
The Department thanked the NCCA for the reworked draft but stated the separation of children must be considered -- particularly for preparation for Communion for Catholic children.
It stipulated the programme had to provide for religious formation, such as preparation for Communion during the school day.
It said children would have to be separated to accommodate this.
In a confidential document, obtained by RTE under the Freedom of Information Act, it told the NCCA parts of its document had the potential "to unsettle some of the key players".
Three weeks later, the NCCA was dropped from the project.
The Department then turned to the private Catholic Marino Institute, paying out an initial cost of €127,000.
That programme that has been developed is now being piloted in five CNS schools in Dublin and surrounding counties.
This gives some strong indications that the Government was still intrinsically linked to the Catholic Church's viewpoint.
Former principal Maureen O'Sullivan TD was a teacher in a Catholic secondary school but said that the idea of inclusion is vital for students development.
"I believe in choice in education," she told the Herald.
"I worked in a school with a Catholic ethos, but it certainly was an inclusive school."
Sources told the Herald there are suggestions the Department felt the Marino Institute was "better placed than the NCCA" to develop the action research plan which was a pilot project.
A number of Muslim parents have now withdrawn their children from the religious teaching.
It is understood the Muslim section of the programme has been suspended.
The parents have asked the department to expand the programme to focus on "general moral values" and not on any particular religious beings or include group prayers.
The Department of Education was unavailable for comment at the time of going to print.
The Census yesterday revealed the amount people who wish to disassociate themselves from religion jumped by 45pc in Ireland.