A couple of weeks ago, the diocese of Meath published a letter regarding the recognition of qualifications to teach Catholic Religious Education in Catholic Primary Schools. In the letter, it stated that:
“Only teachers with an approved religious qualification may be considered for any fixed term, substitute or temporary cover…At present the Hibernia Religious Diploma is not recognised by the I.E.C.”
This week, the story has grown legs after a number of queries were posted to the Voice for Teachers Facebook Page. The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference lists the colleges that do provide appropriate qualifications in Catholic religious education and Hibernia College is missing from this list. This is very worrying for any graduate of Hibernia College whether they are employed or not. At this point, there has been no response from Hibernia College.
Hibernia College currently provides almost 50% of graduates going into the teaching profession. It is the only training college that is not currently affiliated with a church (either Catholic or Church of Ireland) but it provides a module on religion, specifically Catholicism. Interestingly, despite not being affiliated with a church, Hibernia College is the only college that doesn’t make the religion module optional.
This isn’t the first time, the religion module has caused issues for Hibernia College. In 2012, it was teaching as part of its Religion module the following: “What bothers very few of its latter-day exponents is the fact that atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed, namely Nazism, Fascism and Marxism…” Furthermore, students were expected to answer that it is “True” that “Atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed.” (Source: Atheist Ireland and Irish Times)
If the above is true, this will affect thousands of graduates seeking positions in Catholic National Schools. It may even affect teachers that already have permanent positions in these schools as a school could enact Section 37 of the Employment Act to remove teachers for undermining the religious ethos of the school. While this last scenario is unlikely, it is possible.
With more and more schools asking for the appropriate qualifications to teach religious instruction in Catholic schools, this is very worrying for anyone coming out of Hibernia College now as this is the time of the year when jobs are being advertised. With the supplementary panel clear, as of this time of writing, there were just over 500 jobs being advertised for primary school positions.
UPDATE: 18th June.
From Hibernia College (through a student who sent this on)
Hibernia College has been actively engaged with the Catholic Church’s Council for Catechetics to obtain approval as a recognised college and this process has now come to a conclusion. The Council, which is charged with assessing submissions from third level colleges for the recognition of qualifications to teach Religious Education in Catholic Primary Schools, has confirmed that the RE content of the Hibernia qualification meets the standards outlined in the Bishops’ Conference document on the matter. Accordingly the Council will recommend to the Bishops Conference that, at its September meeting, it approve Hibernia College as a recognised college. The Council for Catechetics has advised all dioceses of this development to assist schools in evaluating applications for job interviews this summer. Hibernia College already has accreditations with the Teaching Council and QQI.