A row has erupted for a second year running over a multi-denominational primary school’s decision to invite Catholic marriage agency Accord to deliver relationships and sexuality education to children.
Parents at Castleknock Educate Together school in Dublin have said they are vehemently opposed to the decision and have called on the school’s management to rescind the invitation.
In a letter to school principal Aedin Ni Thuathail, the chair of the school’s Parent Teacher Association says "it is difficult to see how [an organisation] funded by the Catholic church and with a clear religious ethos could ever have been deemed ‘fit for purpose’ to deliver the RSE programme in an Educate Together school".
The letter was sent last March before the decision to contract the Catholic organisation was formally made.
In the letter Chairperson Ciaran Browne asks the school principal not to proceed. He said he and other parents firmly believe that the decision is not in keeping with the principles of Educate Together.
"When parents enrolled their children at the school", the letter reads "they were making an active decision to have their child educated in a school with particular core principles, not in a school which favoured one particular religious ethos over others".
Yesterday parents were informed that Accord would deliver a programme to 5th and 6th class pupils in mid-June.
The school has contracted Accord to teach RSE to pupils for a number of years now, despite ongoing objections from parents.
Reiterating the view that inviting Accord in went against the school’s multi-denominational ethos one parent told RTE News: "93% of schools here are Catholic. I thought I was getting an alternative to that. We put our kids in on the basis that there would be no religious interference".
She raised Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality as one central issue.
"Accord does not validate same-sex relationships and they openly discriminate against gay people and I want my daughter to know that that is wrong".
Castleknock Educate Together School has not as yet responded to a query from RTÉ News.
The school's patron body Educate Together has told RTÉ News that it expects all of its schools to deliver the full RSE curriculum without references to any religious-based biases.
In a statement Educate Together said it fully supported a review of RSE in schools that is currently under way.
It said it fully agreed with former Minister for Education Richard Bruton that the RSE curriculum needed to be updated to make reference to the "healthy, positive sexual expression, safe use of the internet, and LGBTQ+ matters.
It said while it did not have the authority to require schools to deliver the RSE programme in a specific way, it expected all of its schools to deliver the full Relationships and Sexuality curriculum without reference to any religious-based biases.
Last September inspectors from the Department of Education identified a "serious breakdown in trust" in key relationships at the Dublin primary school.
In a report following an inspection carried out earlier in the year inspectors said the problem was affecting teaching and was causing low staff morale.
The inspection report found that trust between the board and the parent-teacher association, the board and the in-school management team, and within the management team had broken down.
It said that "concerted and sustained efforts" had been made by the board, principal, staff and parents to address many of the issues. However, it said "matters remain unresolved".
In its response to the inspector’s findings the school board of management said "significant efforts have been made to date to address complex relationship difficulties over the past number of years".
The Department of Education is currently undertaking what it has called a major review of the Relationships and Sexuality curriculum at both primary and second level. That review is expected to be completed within the coming weeks.
The review comes on foot of a recommendation from the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment.
The Department of Education review covers not just the content of the curriculum but also how it is delivered, and the role played by "external providers".