Separating church and state seems to be an impossible ambition. There are two completely opposing views on this area and anything further I say on it will be agreed with and disagreed with. (See Idea 1)
However, given that it isn’t possible right now, we need to ensure that there is never a time in the school day where any child is left out due to a religious programme. It makes no sense when an average of at least 20% of any classroom contains pupils from different religious affiliations. Right now, many of them are “sucking it up” and not causing “trouble” but more and more regularly, pupils are being opted out from faith formation.
During this time, a school does not have to set different work for the pupils and often they simply have to sit at the back of the room while the “normal” class goes on. In some cases, schools do not let this happen and they must sit through these classes!
It doesn’t do anyone any favours. It is disrespectful to the children and it is inconvenient for the teachers. There is also no reason to keep it going.
Faith formation classes can happen after school and there is no legal reason why this can’t happen today. Educate Together and Community National Schools do this successfully.
Instead of Faith Formation, I think it is important to have a decent ethics programme such as Learn Together or Goodness Me Goodness You (the new one, not the old one)
If denominational schools want to teach faith formation, they can easily do this after school. This should include all sacrament preparation and so on. However, that’s for another article and luckily, idea 91 covers that!