Educate Together has said claims that children are not able to celebrate Christmas and other religious holidays at their schools are “both incorrect and misleading.”
It comes after parents in north Dublin were warned that their children may be prevented from celebrating the holidays if school patronage is changed from a Catholic to non-denominational model.
One of eight Catholic primary schools in the Portmarnock/Malahide/Kinsealy area is to be divested under Government plans to offer 400 non-denominational schools by 2030.
In recent weeks, parents of two of the schools were sent letters warning that if they voted in favour of the change, their children would be prevented from celebrating holidays like Christmas, Easter and St Patrick’s Day.
This afternoon, Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne urged parents to ignore the warnings.
“This thing about Christmas is being closed down, I mean, that is straight off of Fox News in the States,” he said.
“It is a huge exaggeration and I think parents should simply dismiss those [claims].”
In a statement, Educate Together said the core of its “equality-based ethos” is that pupils are exposed to “different beliefs and perspectives in a respectful way that encourages critical thinking.”
It said religious belief systems and philosophical convictions are “approached from a learning perspective rather than a promotional perspective.”
“Christmas is, of course, marked in Educate Together schools nationwide,” it said. “Just as our schools endeavour to mark Diwali, Eid, Vaisakhi and other religious festivals throughout the school term.”
It also noted that Educate Together is not interested in “taking over” any school and noted that its growth in popularity “continues to be driven by parental demand.”
“Our aim is to create a balanced educational choice in communities, so that the rights of all families are equally respected,” it said.
“Educate Together stands willing to work with the Department of Education, Church authorities and any other partners in delivering a national network of equality-based schools in line with proven parental demand.”
The Department of Education has said non-denominational schools are not required to ask pupils not to celebrate religious festivals or events.