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Church ‘not serious on reform of education’

The Catholic Church is on the defensive over education reform and is allowing limited co-operation with other schools, it has been claimed.

The church's consultation on post-primary education is more about demonstrating control than seriously engaging, Alliance Party MLA Trevor Lunn suggested.

He said the review, which touches on issues such as collaborating with other schools on parts of the curriculum, should have been delayed until the wider schools landscape was decided.

Representatives of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) gave evidence to the Education Committee at Stormont yesterday.

Mr Lunn said: “You are defending your sector, you are prepared to cooperate but only in a limited way.”

He added: “A cynic ... might think this is still about absolute control of your own sector and a tremendous unwillingness to do more than engage in a limited way with the wider sector.”

Bishop Donal McKeown, Education Spokesman for the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland said there was currently limited scope for cooperation.

“We certainly were driven by the entitlement framework requirement and we wanted to ensure pupils had access to a wide range of subjects,” he said.

“The only structure in place to allow discussions is the area-based planning process, which is only curricular activities, not structures.”

He added: “I think in the future the distinction will not be religious difference but religious indifference and the big division in education will be with faith-based education and secular education.”

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