Written Answers - Multidenominational Schools

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 751 No. 1

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 222.  Deputy John Lyons Information on John Lyons Zoom on John Lyons  asked the Minister for Education and Skills Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  if there is a protocol in place in schools to facilitate students of the Muslim faith; specifically if there is a protocol in place on pupils wearing a hijab or abaya in schools; if schools are required to make an area available for students to pray; and if such students are required to participate in religious instruction along with their classmates. [41411/11]

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Ruairí Quinn): Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn My Department published a Report on the Need for a Guidance Note to Schools when reviewing their policies on School Uniforms in 2008. The report is available on the Department’s website at www.education.ie.

The report acknowledges that the current system, whereby schools decide their uniform policy at a local level, is reasonable, works and should be maintained. The report indicates that where schools have permitted the wearing of the hijab, in a colour which is similar to the ordinary school uniform, no problems have been encountered. The recommendations provide that no school uniform policy should act in such a way that it, in effect, excludes students of a particular religious background from seeking enrolment or continuing their enrolment in a school. However, this statement does not recommend the wearing of clothing in the classroom, such as a niqab or burka, which obscures a facial view and creates an artificial barrier between pupil and teacher. Such clothing hinders proper communication.

There is no obligation on schools to provide an area for students to pray and it is a matter for individual schools to decide whether they wish to do so. Under Section 15 of the Education Act 1998, school boards of management are required to uphold the ethos of their school [212](section 15.2(b)) but also to have respect and promote respect for the diversity of values, beliefs, traditions, languages and ways of life in society (Section 15.2(h)). Under Section 30 of the Education Act 1998, no student can be required to attend instruction in any subject which is contrary to the conscience of the parent of the student, and students have the right of withdrawal from religious instruction where it is sought. Article 44.2.4 of the Constitution provides for the right of any child to attend a State funded school without attending religious instruction in that school.

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