TUV leader Jim Allister reminds Education Minister Michelle McIlveen of her duty to provide Christian religious education and worship in schools

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Last week, a report funded by the Inclusive Education Fund called for an end to ‘Christian-centred’ religious education and daily acts of worship in schools across Northern Ireland.

The article, written by Dr Matt Milliken and Professor Stephen Roulston, argues for “radical change” and a single, more secular education system with the end of all academic selection.

Their report, “How Education Must Change: One Vision for One System,” received core funding from the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) and was produced by the UNESCO Center at the University of Ulster, funded by the United Nations.

TUV leader Jim Allister has written to the Minister for Education about the legal requirement for schools to provide Christian-focused RE and acts of worship.

TUV leader Mr Allister wrote to DUP Education Minister Michelle McIlveen this week, reminding her that the legal obligation for schools to provide Christian-focused RE and worship still remains in place. .

“Last week Ulster University released a report funded by the Integrated Education Fund calling for the repeal of legislation requiring ‘Christian-focused’ RE courses and worship in schools “, Mr. Allister said.

“This anti-God program amounts to a direct attack on the established ethos of schools throughout Northern Ireland.”

He added: ‘An important fact which is all too often overlooked when it comes to discussions of this issue is that many controlled schools were originally run by various Protestant churches in Northern Ireland before being handed over in the state. This is an important fact to remember when discussing a proposal that would remove God from the classroom and the boardroom, despite the existing right to parental opt-out.

“Many schools and families continue to recognize the value of including Christian instruction as part of the school day. Faith remains an important part of schools’ identity and children are more likely to develop as citizens when they have a clear value system that informs their actions towards others and their behavior in society as a whole. . The Christian faith has been the cornerstone of education for hundreds of years and has helped create the society in which we live.

He added: “I have therefore tabled a question with the Minister for Education reminding her of the legal obligation of schools to provide religious instruction and acts of worship focusing on Christianity and asking her to commit to maintain it”.

Ulster University and the Integrated Education Fund were invited to comment.

But Dr Milliken, co-author of the report, replied that the status quo had been deemed contrary to human rights law.

“The paper presented last week drew on empirical evidence and academic research from a multitude of sources to present a vision of how our education system could – and perhaps should – change in order to address the persistent problems of administrative complexity, duplication, societal division, underperformance and rising costs,” he told the News Letter. “At the same time, it is proposed that such changes better prepare generations to create and participate in a prosperous and shared future.

“I welcome Mr. Allister’s willingness to engage in discussions on how the education system here needs to be reformed to ensure it can meet the needs of the entire population. Current provisions relating to religious education and communal worship in schools have recently been identified in a High Court decision as being contrary to human rights law; as it stands, sections 21 and 22 of the 1986 ordinance are undeniably obstacles to the development of a truly inclusive education system.

In July, the High Court ruled that exclusively Christian religious education in primary schools was illegal, after a challenge by an unnamed ‘non-religious’ parent in Belfast for their seven-year-old daughter. However, the High Court did not conclude what the implications of the decision would be and asked lawyers for interested parties to submit their views.

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