At least three Catholic ethos primary schools are said to have ‘rejected’ a controversial new sex education programme.
Flourish is a new relationships and sexuality education (RSE) resource developed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference, and it’s due to be used in Catholic ethos primary schools from September.
While it covers areas such as same-sex relationships, it also reaffirms the Church’s teachings on many issues - saying the Church’s view that marriage is “between a man and a woman” cannot be omitted from classes.
The programme also describes the likes of sex and puberty as ‘gifts from God’.
Over the weekend, the Irish Times reported that Lacken National School in Blessington Co Wicklow has committed to not using the programme
The decision came after parents objected to the programme as "not fit for purpose", claiming it is “discriminatory to LGBTQ+ children”.
Education Equality - a group that wants religious instruction and worship in schools to take place outside core school hours, so parents have a choice whether their children take part - has welcomed the school's decision.
David Graham, Communications Officer at Education Equality, told Newstalk Breakfast the Wicklow school is not alone.
He said: “It’s really a good news story. What has happened is what is supposed to happen in schools: that parents feel empowered enough to express their concerns to the school in relation to a matter that concerns the education of their children.
"I have to give full credit to the school for listening to those concerns and responding with a very practical, common-sense decision.
“I’ve become aware in the last 24 hours of two other schools… that have also taken the same decision. This school is not alone.”
He stressed he is not speaking on behalf of the parents at the Wicklow school, but that his group provided “moral and practical support” while the parents were objecting to the programme.
Mr Graham argued that resources such as Flourish are simply no longer in line with society’s views and ethos.
He observed: “The programme… refers to itself as a programme. I know the Archbishop has tried to roll back on that a little bit since… but it’s a programme, syllabus or resource for use in Catholic-run schools. There are a number of schools under Catholic patronage that have rejected it and said they’re not going to use it.
“Society as a whole is no longer Catholic in the same way it was. I think this particular programme has thrown a very harsh spotlight on the disconnect between our Catholic-run education system and society as a whole.
“This programme says ‘the Church’s teaching in relation to marriage between a man and a woman cannot be omitted in relation to LGBT issues'. That simply contradicts the Constitution.”
Mr Graham added that society has changed and “our education system has to change as well”.