I trained as a teacher 14 years ago in the UK. I chose to train in the UK for the chance to live abroad and I’m so glad I did; my training was inspiring and challenging. I worked there for five years, employed both full-time and as a substitute teacher in religious and non-religious schools across Bristol. I returned in 2013 and soon after got a job in an Educate Together in Dublin city centre. I spent six years there and I loved its ethos and core values, its celebration of children, play, music and different cultures and faiths. For the first time in Ireland, I experienced the alternative to a Catholic education. It aligned with my personal beliefs and felt like a more authentic environment for building relationships with pupils, parents and staff. It was a newly developing school and it was exciting to be part of something so valued by parents and so personal to children.
In 2021 I left to return to the South West and worked for a while in an Educate Together before moving again. In my new area I haven’t gotten a job in the local Educate Together-I’m not for everybody nor is every school for me-but there is now no other option of employment for me, as I do not hold the Certificate in Catholic Religious education, which every Irish qualified teacher does as part of their training. Without this faith-formation certificate, I am not allowed to be employed in a Catholic school.
Up until this year, I had no intention of doing the certificate as it goes against my morals and ethics of treating children with respect and speaking openly and honestly with them. Teaching Catholicism has been put into the hands of teachers who don’t believe in it themselves, but who can’t get a job without saying they will teach it to children whose parents may not believe at all but who have no other option for their child’s schooling. I feel extremely uncomfortable delivering Catholicism alongside Maths, English and Irish as a centre point of education, and allocating so much curricular time in second and sixth class to it. It feels hypocritical. “Nobody teaches it every day” is supposed to make me feel better, but then what actually matters when teaching? And what gives- inter-religious dialogue? Boards of Management are legally obligated to ‘manage the school in accordance with the doctrines, practices and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church’.
However, I have two small children, a mortgage, bills, child-care and 14 years of experience teaching. I need and deserve a job. So this September I paid 1,200 euro and travelled up to St. Pats in DCU to begin my year-long certificate in Catholic Religious Education with another 120 teachers who can’t get a job or promotion without this faith-formation certificate. My employment possibilities are restrained by the influence of the Roman Catholic church, despite my talent and experience as a teacher. They control principals, boards of management, classrooms and conversations. My mother and grandmothers generation were so dominated by the church and I thought I had escaped it, but I haven’t.