Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Questions (254, 282, 310)

Gino Kenny

Question:

254. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Education and Skills if the State is directly or indirectly funding legal costs, including senior counsel, in the recent past, or on an ongoing basis, associated with enforcing a religious ethos in a non-designated ETB school in Clonmel, County Tipperary, to the detriment of atheist, humanist, or secular members of the community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4855/20]

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Martin Browne

Question:

282. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision has been made for second-level education free from religious influence and iconography in south County Tipperary to cater for such facilities being desired for their children by parents of atheist, Humanist or a secular republican disposition. [5100/20]

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Martin Browne

Question:

310. Deputy Martin Browne asked the Minister for Education and Skills if provision has been made by the State for second-level education free from religious influence and iconography in Clonmel, County Tipperary, such facilities being desired for their children by parents of atheist, humanist, or of a secular republican disposition. [5296/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 254, 282 and 310 together.

The Department does not comment on individual cases.

My Department carries out nationwide demographic exercises to determine where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level. No new post-primary schools are currently planned for the South County Tipperary -Clonmel School Planning Area. The requirement for new schools will be kept under on-going review and in particular will have regard for the increased rollout of housing provision as outlined in Project Ireland 2040.

There are currently four post-primary schools in the Clonmel school planning area, three of which are classified as denominational and one as multi-denominational (under the patronage of Tipperary Education and Training Board).

ETB schools are multi-denominational schools and as such are required to serve their communities. This includes providing for religious instruction according to the profile of the students who attend the school.

Circulars 13/2018 and 62/2018 set out the arrangements for certain multi-denominational post primary schools, including ETB schools to consult with parents and in the case of pupils who have reached the age of 18, the pupil, to ascertain their wishes in relation to religious instruction and worship. Schools are required to incorporate parental choice regarding religious instruction as part of the normal processes for planning and timetabling generally.

Recently commenced sections of the Education (Admission to Schools) Act 2018 also contain a specific requirement that school enrolment policies must include details of the school’s arrangements for any students who do not wish to attend religious instruction. I believe this is an important measure which will help ensure transparency from the outset as to how a school will uphold the rights of parents in this regard.