How To Opt Out Of Studying Religion In School

Religion is part of the school curriculum for many schools in Ireland.

When your child begins their formal education at primary and secondary level there will always be subjects that they enjoy less than others. Many of these subjects are mandatory and therefore simply have to be done.
They will naturally have different strengths and weaknesses which affect the way they approach each subject. Unfortunately not enjoying maths is not a reason to cease your studies of that subject. Religion as a subject is a different matter altogether though.
Religion is part of the school curriculum for many schools in Ireland and while you might want your child to attend a particular school you may also be uncomfortable with them learning about religion.

Not wanting your child to study religion is a very personal choice. It may be due to the fact that your family practices a different form of religion than that which will be explored in their classroom. In other cases, it might be a result of being an atheist.   
A lot of people may wonder why, in these cases, you chose a “Catholic” school for your child to attend but there are a number of factors that may have lead you to choose this school when you weighed it all up.
For example, this school may have an excellent reputation in terms of results or sports teams. Location can also dictate the decision as well as having siblings already attending the school. It is very possible to send your children to a Catholic school and to also want to opt them out of studying religion while they study there.

According to, “You have a human right under the European Convention to opt your child out of religion without disclosing your religious or philosophical convictions”. You may have heard that primary and secondary schools are not obliged to supervise your children if you opt them out of religious classes though.
For this reason, it can a lot trickier to manage logistically. They are not obliged to provide an alternative subject in its place either. Some schools may have a specific solution but there is no general rule in this case. In some cases, children who have been “opted out” are advised to sit at the back of the classroom while the lesson is happening.
In this case, opting them out of the subject is a bit of an illusion as they are still very much exposed to the lesson.

Essentially, you have the right to remove your child from religious studies at school and the Irish constitution protects that right. However, as schools are not obliged to deliver the entire curriculum in an objective way it is not possible to remove your child from the religious philosophy of the school as they are a fluid part of the school ethos and day to day running.

In 2018, the department of education issued a letter to all second level ETB schools which essentially informed the schools that a student could opt out of religious education as an exam subject and choose another curriculum subject instead. The letter also informed the schools that they are obliged to inform parents of the times of religious worship so that parents can opt their children out.

In many cases, if a parent opts their child out of religion class the child may be encouraged to do some other course work or homework at the back of the class while that particular class occurs.
As the school is not responsible for the supervision of your child in these circumstances there may also be a possibility to remove your child from the school during this lesson time or if it is age appropriate they can leave the school and go home if their home is close to the school and this is feasible.

The first step in removing your child from religious education at school is to approach the school and board of management to inquire about their procedure. The next step is to make your requests and preferences clear in formal writing to the school. Every school will have a different way of approaching this scenario.

Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at

Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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