8TH OCTOBER 2004
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ ON THE STANDARDISATION
OF THE SCHOOL YEAR
The issue of the primary school calendar, core teaching days and the observance of
Holy days of obligation was discussed by the Irish Bishops’ Conference (IBC) at both
its June and October general meetings before receipt of any correspondence from the
Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) on the matter.
Catholic bishops – as patrons to Catholic primary schools – the Department of
Education and Science and teacher unions have a formal agreement (Circular M21/04)
which was issued on 22nd March 2004, that:
– certain days during the school year are days of religious observance. Such days
apply to all denominations and faiths (three Holy days of obligation for Catholics)
and may be observed as days away from school;
– in-service training days for teachers are vital and these should be incorporated
into the school calendar but should not compromise days of religious observance.
The position of the Catholic bishops is clear: Holy days of obligation are to be
observed by schools under their patronage.
Catholic bishops have a duty to children, teachers and parents to ensure a Catholic
ethos exists and is promoted in Catholic schools. Over the generations, Catholic
schools have maintained a schooling system that is open and welcoming to all people,
and supportive of the observance of the core tenets of Catholic faith and practice.
In addition, Catholic schools accept and implement rules and regulations that
emanate from the Department of Education and Science. Therefore, while Circular
M21/04 states, “Schools are required to be open to receive all pupils on the
weekday immediately preceding and immediately following each break period covered
by this agreement,” it is of concern to bishops that this direction has not been
observed in some instances for Monday November 1st next (All Saints Day).
The bishops accept that designating All Saints Day as an in-service training
day was an oversight by a unit of the Department of Education. However, we note
that the INTO did not raise this issue during the negotiation of the standardised
school year and we are concerned that the union seems to be specifically targeting
Holy days as in-service training days. As patrons of Catholic schools, we are
committed to preserving and fostering the ethos of our schools and cannot accept
this attempt to dilute our ethos.
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)