Northern Ireland news

Study suggests review of 'Catholic teachers certificate'

The qualification is necessary if a teacher wants to work in a Catholic primary school

THE `Catholic teachers certificate' is "without educational merit or practical justification", according to a study.

Academics have suggested there may be value in reviewing the Certificate in Religious Education.

The qualification is necessary if a teacher wants to work in a Catholic primary school.

Staff who undertook the course have questioned its requirement.

Their comments are featured in a paper published by the Transforming Education project at Ulster University (UU).

It has been developing briefing papers focussing on policies relevant to integration and separate schooling.

The latest study examined the certificate and its role in sectoral patterns of teacher employment.

It has been identified as limiting opportunities for teachers to access employment outside of schools associated with their own educational background and community identity.

Any teacher, of any faith, can achieve the certificate. Protestant trainees can, and do, take it although not in large numbers.

UU's research raised questions about it as an effective and appropriate occupational requirement.

It found that "cross-over teachers cast doubt on the capacity of the certificate, as it currently exists, to adequately prepare a non-Catholic teacher for supporting their pupils to follow Catholic religious practices and rituals".

"Protestant teachers who were employed in maintained primary schools were interviewed in depth. None of them was convinced of the practical merit of the certificate. A view was expressed that, as long as a qualified, capable teacher was in possession of adequate curriculum material then they could deliver any class - irrespective of their personal faith," the study said.

One teacher said: "You don't have to be Catholic to teach in a Catholic school...I'll get handed the curriculum book and I'll read it - because I'm not staunchly any religion I don't find offence - I don't find a problem with it."

Another Protestant teacher, the report added, "saw the certificate as being a barrier without educational merit or practical justification".

"She did not have the certificate and, as a result, had been unable to apply for a permanent post in a maintained primary even though she had occupied a longer-term temporary post in that same school," it found.

"The requirement for teachers seeking employment in Catholic primary schools to have completed the certificate only applies to those who apply for permanent posts.

"(The principal's) words were `if we were to have you as a sub or for maternity cover it wouldn't matter but if you were applying for a permanent job you would need it'."

Another teacher suggested that the certificate requirement may be concealing an ulterior motive.

"When you are in a Catholic school and you are advertising for a teacher you have to put that thing in about the Catholic certificate so it's highly unlikely you will get any non-Catholics applying for the job," they said.

Integrated Education Fund Chief Executive Tina Merron said this research added to a growing body of evidence to support arguments for a fundamental reform of the education system.

"The requirement for the Catholic RE certificate for teachers in maintained primaries and nurseries, alongside the fair employment exception for teaching posts, reflects and underlines the divided nature of schools provision.

"We look forward to the establishment of the independent review of education, pledged in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, which we hope will identify all the elements which should be addressed on the way to building a new, unified education system."

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