THE father of a newly qualified Primary School teacher has hit out at the “discriminatory nature” of a newspaper advertisement for a Co Tyrone Integrated Primary school which asks for applicants to have the Catholic Teaching Certificate as ‘essential criteria’.
In the newspaper advertisement for a ‘Permanent teacher’ at Phoenix Integrated Primary School in Cookstown, applicants are also asked to offer experience and willingness to contribute to sport and physical activity in the school as part of ‘desirable criteria’. Applicants are also asked to have a clear knowledge and experience of ICT in the primary classroom.
“My son ticked all the boxes for this post, apart from the Catholic Teaching Certificate - which he does not have as he is a Protestant - and it baffles me as to how this is needed in an integrated school,” father, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the News Letter.
There are currently 56 Protestant pupils, 91 Roman Catholic pupils and 20 pupils of other denominations at Phoenix Integrated.
Ulster Unionist MLA, Danny Kinahan, who last week led a call in the Assembly to remove the requirement for teachers working in the Catholic Maintained sector to have a Certificate in Religious Education, said: “It is time for this discriminatory practice to come to an end. It is now in the hands of our First and deputy First Minister. An Open Letter was sent to all our MLA’s from dignitaries here and across the water including Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey, former Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan and Baroness May Blood.”
DUP MLA Mervyn Storey added that he was “at a loss to understand why a Catholic Teaching Certificate is necessary to teach maths, geography, P.E or anything other than religion”.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “There has never been a requirement to possess the Certificate in Religious Education to work in Integrated Primary Schools. Some integrated primary schools may seek the Certificate in Religious Education as a job related criterion. For example, teachers whose responsibility it is to prepare pupils in years 3, 4 and 7 for their sacraments may be required to hold the certificate. The Board of Governors of Grant Maintained Integrated schools is the employers of staff employed within their schools, therefore decisions on appointment arrangements and the selection of candidates are a matter for a GMI school’s Board of Governors.
“They are responsible for ensuring that all is compliant with employment legislation.”
The school’s principal Heather Watson said the particular advertisement is to fill a specific role for a teacher who will be expected to prepare children for their First Holy Communion, Confession and Confirmation.
Ms Watson said: “At present we do not have sufficient teachers with this certificate to teach the sacraments. It is not a requirement that the applicant is of Catholic affiliation - only that they have the certificate.”
The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education also released a statement on the matter.
“Integrated Primary schools deliver the Religious Education Syllabus as defined by the DE and agreed by the four main Christian Churches. In addition parents may request that children are prepared for the Sacraments; it is a requirement that a teacher delivering this has the CCRE. Integrated schools strive to employ teachers who are qualified to compliment the range of expertise needed to deliver a full and inclusive curriculum. Therefore from time to time job advertisements can include criteria which seek individuals with the required skills necessary to achieve this. Such criteria may include the ability to provide music, sports, ICT and in this incidence ability to prepare children for the sacraments.“