Blog Post

How inclusive are Catholic Schools?

Recently, The Irish Independent carried an article with the headline, Catholic Schools are as inclusive as any other type by Father Tom Deenihan, during Catholic Schools’ Week. However, not everyone would agree with this sentiment. What does being inclusive mean in the 21st century? We surveyed Irish primary teachers to ascertain exactly what happens in their schools. The questions were based on a number of issues faced by people from minority and non-faith backgrounds and asked schools how they coped with the situations.

179 people responded to the survey from a large variety of sources. In this article, I am simply publishing the results without comment.  It is important to note that the questions were not aimed at catching anyone out, nor are they meant to judge schools or teachers. I will publish my own thoughts in another article as well as a infographic.


Would you consider that your school is inclusive to children of no faith or minority faiths?

  • Yes: 85.5%
  • No: 12.3%
  • We don’t have any non-Catholic children in our school: 2.2%

Does your enrollment policy have a Catholics First policy?

  • Yes: 49.4%
  • No: 51.6%

Do you say prayers outside of faith formation class?

  • Yes: 89.9%
  • No: 10.1%

When do you teach faith formation?

  • At the beginning or end of the school day: 10.3%
  • In the middle of the school day: 84.6%
  • Outside of the school day: 5.1%

A few children have been opted out of faith formation in your class. What happens to these children during faith formation class?

  • They have to join in: 3.4%
  • They do something else, either at the back of the class or in their seat: 84.2%
  • They go to another classroom: 6.2%
  • Their parents collect them and drop them back: 1.1%
  • We don’t provide faith formation during the school day: 5.1%

You are doing prayers at the start of the day and a child who has been opted-out of religion decides to join in. What do you do?

  • I ignore it: 62.3%
  • I tell them to stop: 0.6%
  • I tell them at the end of the day with their family that it’s ok not to join in: 37.1%

A child asks why an opted-out child isn’t taking part in class, what do you do?

  • I dodge the question: 2.3%
  • I tell the child it’s because his/her parents said so: 1.7%
  • I explain that his/her family do not share the same faith as him/her and that this is ok: 93.2%
  • Other: 2.8%

Many Catholic Schools have a grandparents’ day as part of Catholic Schools Week. How do you cater for the children who have grandparents who are not Catholic?

  • We invite all grandparents. Whether they come or not isn’t my problem: 33.9%
  • We don’t do a mass for Grandparents Day: 65.5%
  • We only invite the Catholic Grandparents so it isn’t a problem: 0.6%

The class have to go to mass. What happens to the children who are not Catholic?

  • They come to the church: 22.3%
  • They go to another classroom while we’re gone: 58.5%
  • Parents have the option to pick them up or else they come to the church: 19.3%

During RSE, how do you include the child whose parents are a same-sex couple?

  • It’s a Catholic school and I either can’t mention it or simply follow the Catholic Church guidelines: 78.4%
  • I ignore the guidelines from the Catholic Church as they are irrelevant: 20.6%

How do you deal with a child who identifies himself or herself as LGBT?

  • It’s not an issue at all: 59.4%
  • Unless he/she is being bullied, we don’t talk about it: 27.6%
  • We don’t discuss sexulaity of any kind in school: 12.9%

How do you deal with non-Catholic families during Catholic Schools Week?

  • They must join in all the activities: 12%
  • We try to include non-Catholics by altering activities: 62%
  • We largely ignore Catholic Schools’ Week as it is impossible to include non-Catholics: 25.9%

A non-Catholic parent complains that she does not want her child going to the church during the school day as it is against her beliefs. How do you deal with this?

  • It’s a Catholic School: 21.1%
  • Child goes to a different class: 62%
  • We don’t bring the children to mass: 17%

A parent asks you why you have not taught the full RSE curriculum to include homosexuality. How do you deal with this?

  • It’s a Catholic School: 33.5%
  • This wouldn’t happen. I teach all aspects of RSE including homosexulaity: 66.5%

Your class are doing the Nativity Play at Christmas. You have decided to give parts to 3 non-Christian children in the play. Would you agree this is inclusive?

  • Yes: 18.9%
  • No: 13.1%
  • Neither: 68%

There you have it. I’ll be posting my own thoughts on this survey over the next few days. It’s worth mentioning that I posted this survey up on Facebook and comments were generally a mix of positive and negative. Some people said that the questions were long overdue and others felt they were skewed. I did ask for clarification as to where the questions could be perceived to be skewed and asked for alternative responses to the questions. I received none. If anyone has any alternative answers to any of the questions above, I’d love to hear them to shape my own opinions on the matter.

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