Yesterday we learned that Richard Bruton wants the ETB to go around asking schools to divest to other patrons, one of which is actually the ETB itself. Not only that, now that we’ve nearly managed to stop wasting money on paying rent on prefabs, the government now want to pay the Catholic Church up to €20k a year to use their buildings.
It’s not surprising given the potential scandal, Twitter was buzzing today and the CNS Twitter page was being asked some pressing questions, given their relationship with the Catholic Church. (A deal was done with the Catholic Church on the establishment of Community National Schools that there would be a guarantee of Catholic faith formation within the school day. No other patron demanded this.)
What was very interesting was the CNS’s inability to give a straight answer to questions. There were a number of examples, which I’ll outline here.
The rumour that teacher trainees are required to have certification in religious studies to teach in CNS schools.
This has come about because of the following documentation, which was uncovered by a freedom of information request. I have highlighted the relevant text.
It appears that CNS schools require formal CPD in at least two different denominational programmes. It is easy to get the first in teacher training college, either Catholic or Church of Ireland, because all Irish training colleges offer this as a module, (it is not compulsory in most colleges but to get a job in over 90% of schools requires it.) It appears it is also necessary from the above to have it too. Getting a second one might be tricky as no such course exists in training college. However, the CNS have managed to pull together a 2-day CPD on how to teach Islam in their schools. I’m not sure if this course is approved by any Muslim group but I know that a number of teachers in the CNS model have done this training and have said that it does not prepare them properly. Moving to Twitter, it was asked whether the CNS hold this line on obtaining certification in 2 different faiths.
Pressing further, as this didn’t quite answer the question, the CNS were asked whether their position above had changed. No matter how many ways the question was asked, the CNS would not say that the above position has changed. All that they would admit was that no certs have been sought.
From my own research, I believe it is true that the CNS do not ask for certs in religious education at interviews. Given that almost everybody who goes through the Irish teacher training programme is likely to have a cert in one religion, it is likely to be assumed that everyone has one. Because the second religious cert is impossible to get in teacher training college, it would be unfair to ask for it. I would be worried that if colleges started offering modules in faith-based instruction, it may become the norm to ask potential candidates about their certs in 2 denominational programmes.
The CNS have a wonderful way with words. George Orwell would be proud. They seem to get very defensive if you accuse them of providing Faith Formation.
Belief Specific Teaching is not Faith Formation according to the CNS. When pressed on the difference, they had no answer. I also find it funny that they don’t even like the term “Sacrament Preparation” which they do for Catholic children. They prefer the term “Sacrament Education.” From my own research, it appears that in 2nd class, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference between a CNS classroom and a Catholic one except that in the CNS, all of the non-Catholic children are in a another room doing the generic Goodness Me, Goodness You programme… and yes, the children in this room are treated differently and unfairly as a result according to one teacher I spoke to in a CNS school.
It might help to build a dictionary of terms:
English <–> CNS
- Faith Formation <–> Belief Specific Teaching
- Children who aren’t Catholics, Christians or Muslims <–> HBH (Hindus, Buddhists and Humanists)
- Sacrament Preparation <–> Sacrament Education
- Interdenominational <–> Multi-Belief
I’m sure we’ll hear more as we go along this wonderful journey of doublespeak.
Segregation of Children
Finally one of the biggest criticisms of the CNS model is the fact that children are segregated according to faith at certain times of the year. It happens for at least 4 weeks of every school year. This is one of the main reasons many people are outraged by the model. Simply replacing faith with skin colour gives it a sinister undertone and add the variable that one faith has been given guarantees makes the whole thing very unpalatable indeed. Of course, the CNS completely deny that this is a problem even going to the lengths of justifying it by comparing it to differentiating teaching in the curriculum! However, when pressed on Twitter by a parent, the response was amazing in terms of their refusal to answer the very direct question: What happens if two children do not wish to be separated during this 4-week period?
No surprise, there was no response.