90% of primary teaching trainees identify as Catholic

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96 per cent of national schools in Ireland are denominational.

Influence on state run primary schools by the Catholic church is clearly represented in research by the School of Education at NUI Galway.

The study revealed that 90 per cent of people in the primary teaching profession identified as Roman Catholic in contrast to the 78 per cent of the rest of the Irish population. A lack of religious diversity in primary teaching is evident as 96 per cent of national schools in Ireland are denominational.

“There’s no pressure to explicitly state that you are but there’s definitely pressure to imply that you are,” said Claire Yeats, a primary school teacher studying in St. Patrick’s College, on whether she would feel the need to suggest she is religious in job interviews.

As the majority of primary schools are built on land owned by a church, predominantly by the Catholic Church, it is likely that those who choose to study primary teaching would identify as Catholic. Those people would have most likely attended a denominational primary and secondary school. After which they would have gone to college to learn the profession and fallen back into the system which has been in place for centuries.

The parish priest is also often the chairperson of the Board of Management and would be entitled to be present at an interview, which is the case at the rural primary school Breaffy N.S in Ballina, Co. Mayo. In addition, it is advised and sometimes required that before interviewing for a primary teaching position, to have a CRS certificate. This certificate provides knowledge and skills on how to communicate the Catholic faith to children in accordance with what Irish bishops agree with.

“In St. Pat’s, there is of course a huge emphasis placed on religious education and development; both that of the teacher and the student,” said Deirdre Barry, a trainee primary teacher who is currently writing her thesis on the challenges and opportunities of teaching religion in Ireland today.

“Over the past three and a half years, we have completed many modules based on religion and spirituality. One of these being the Certificate in Religious Studies, a necessary requirement in order to teach in a Catholic School.”

If you identify as an atheist in a primary teaching environment it is generally seen as something “not to be proud of” in an atmosphere of Catholic ethos,  according to Manus McLoughlin.

The primary level teaching student claims most of his classmates are agnostic or atheist.


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Image Credit: Daria Jonkisz