There is not a demand in the educational community for an extra course in Education about Religions and Beliefs and Ethics (ERBE) at primary level, as teachers are already suffering from “curriculum” and “initiative” overload, according to the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPSMA).
Mr Seamus Mulconry, General Secretary of CPSMA told CatholicIreland
that much of what was being proposed in the new course was already
covered in the existing Religious Education curriculum of Catholic and
Church of Ireland primary schools.
“People can misunderstand what is
taught in religious instruction. A large portion of it is actually
ethical formation. From our point of view having two ethics courses in
primary schools is a bit of overkill.”
Mr Mulconry was speaking following the publication of a report by the
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) after it engaged
in a public consultation on a new Education about Religions and Beliefs
and Ethics course for primary schools.
organisations and individuals took part in the consultation, including
the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association which represents all
the boards of management of the over 2,900 Catholic primary schools in
The NCCA’s final report, Consultation on the proposals for a curriculum in Education about Religions and Beliefs (ERB) and Ethics,
published on Tuesday, recognised that there were significant issues of
“curriculum overload and time constraints” in primary schools, and while
there was some support for the new subject, there was little overall
appetite among teachers for the introduction of ERB and Ethics as
“There isn’t a massive demand out there in the educational community
for a course in ERB and ethics, and I think that if you read the
consultation that comes across very strongly,” said Mr Mulconry.
However, he added there is a real problem for primary school
teachers – “not just with curriculum overload” but with “initiative
He said that “Schools have had to adapt to a huge amount of change in
a very short period and teachers are overwhelmed with the number of
initiatives being thrown at them. I think the ERB and ethics is one
initiative too many.”
He added that the course may very well be “a very fine course for
secular schools”, but faith schools were covering much of the material
The NCCA report also identified a concern held by parents, teachers
and patrons across a number of different school types that the approach
proposed in ERB and Ethics could undermine the ethos of faith schools.
From a student’s perspective, many denominations and others voiced
concern that primary school children would be receiving mixed and
conflicting messages in relation to what was being taught in their
Religious Education class and in any subject area called ERB and Ethics.
The CPSMA expressed the view that ‘ERB and Ethics’ was a misnomer. It
“might more appropriately be called World Views Education”.
The NCCA is now planning a consultation on time allocation in schools
to tackle the curriculum overload problem. The CPSMA will also be
involved in this consultation.
Meanwhile, a survey by the education lobby Equate shows that 72 per
cent of parents agree the law should be changed so that baptism can no
longer be a requirement for school admission in state-funded schools.
However, a minority of the 400 parents surveyed said they had baptised
their children to gain admission to schools, with most presenting their
children for baptism for faith or family reasons.