Gaelscoileanna to provide faith classes for a variety of religions

The Catholic Church and the Education and Training Boards are currently in talks about implementing the model

The largest patron body of Gaelscoileanna has said it will establish a new model of school that allows for faith-formation classes for a variety of different religions during the school day.

An Foras Pátrúnachta, the patron of more than 70 Gaelscoileanna, hopes the new model of school will appeal to the Catholic Church, which is preparing to divest hundreds of its primary schools over the coming years.

Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, General Secretary of An Foras Pátrúnachta, explained on The Pat Kenny Show that the patron approached the teaching of faith up to parents within the community.

"In 1993, our first school, Gaelscoil an Ghoirt Álainn in Cork, was a multi-denominational school," he said. "Depending on the wants and needed reflected in the community that we were establishing a school in, we established interdenominational schools and Catholic schools since.

Ó hEaghra said as the largest patron of Irish-medium schools, An Foras Pátrúnachta is required to provide Irish-medium education regardless of religious ethos. 

He said this model was similar to those of Community National Schools, a relatively new form of State-backed school under the patronage of Education and Training Boards (ETBs).

The Catholic Church has previously signalled its support for Community National Schools as they offer the opportunity for faith-formation classes during the school day.

It is unclear specifically how the classes will be taught, as well as exactly how many religions will be provided for under the model.

In multi-denominational schools under An Foras Pátrúnachta, pupils follow an ethics and morals programme. If the parent's committee request faith formation classes, they are organised outside of class hours.

An Foras Pátrúnachta is encouraging the implementation of a community-based model across the country.

"I think everybody will recognise there is an issue with the provision of diversity in our system at the moment," he said. "We see this as a great opportunity to address the two demands - the demand for Irish-medium education and the demand for multi-denominational [education]."