Three Irish schools make history by abandoning Catholic ethos

The primary schools in Kerry and Roscommon will reopen as multi denominational state-run schools.

A group of young boys in school raising their hands to answer a question

In an effort to stem declining attendance figures, three Irish schools in rural areas have made history by becoming the first in the country to abandon their Catholic ethos.

Lecarrow primary school in Roscommon and Scoil an Ghleanna Sorcha and Tahilla national school in Kerry will reopen after the holidays as multi denominational state-run schools. Rather than Catholic religion classes, a multi-belief and values programme will be instated, while students who wish to prepare for communion or confirmation will have to do so outside of school hours. 

These moves have been made in an effort to stop the schools from closing as some parents either drift away from the Catholic church or others of different beliefs look for a less faith-based education. All three Irish schools have a very small student population with none of them exceeding 20 pupils.

In an interview with RTÉ News, Sorcha Ni Chatháin, the Principal of Scoil an Ghleanna Sorcha shared, “We had a third of our pupils who were non-religious, so we had to look at this. We needed to look at how we were going to keep pupils, and entice others. We are a beautiful school in the most stunning location, and now we can show – formally, on paper – that we are all inclusive.”

One of the parents whose children attend the school, Gerardette Uí Chéilleachair, said that despite being Catholic herself, she welcomes the change and doesn’t think it will have any effect on her children’s faiths. “As long as there are Catholic parents who want their children to be raised as Catholics then that will happen. That is not the responsibility of schools or teachers.”

The dominance of the Catholic Church over schools in Ireland has dramatically lessened in recent years, especially with the lifting of the baptism barrier. The baptism barrier, wherein oversubscribed Catholic schools would give entry priority to children who had been baptised, will be a thing of the past from September of this year, following the passage of new legislation in the Dáil. The School Admissions Bill will now prohibit favouritism in Catholic Schools on the basis of the child’s religion.

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