With Stormont resuming after a 24-month hiatus and an Education Minister who has openly stated his creationist beliefs, we are highlighting five key changes Northern Ireland’s education system desperately needs if it is to catch up with modern society.

1) An end to ‘exclusively Christian’ Religious Education (RE)

Four of the largest denominational churches dictate what children are taught in RE in Northern Ireland. The result? Education that focuses more on following ‘holy scripture’ than it does learning about people from different beliefs, including the non-religious (that’s 27% of the population). The recent court case in Northern Ireland said this was not compatible with human rights.

2) A new RE new curriculum following expert advice 

We want the Education Minister to do what the Independent Review Panel said to do: to establish a new RE curriculum body and include non-religious perspectives, including humanism. It is time all schools taught an objective and pluralistic syllabus.

3) Inclusive assemblies, not collective worship

Goodbye, mandatory daily worship. Hello, inclusive assemblies! We want to replace the requirement for daily acts of Christian worship with assemblies appropriate for all children, regardless of their background. We’ve initiated the change we want to see. Our Assemblies for All resources feature over 170 assemblies – on nature, music, culture, and more. 

4) Proper inspection of RE in schools

Why should RE be any different when it comes to inspections? Just like maths, science, or history, RE deserves the same level of scrutiny to make sure it’s delivering quality, unbiased education. Fairness and quality should be the benchmarks for all subjects.

5) Evolution, not creationism

Science is a core component of the curriculum. However, it is not compulsory at Key Stage 4. There is no requirement to teach evolution. The terms ‘evolution’ and ‘natural selection’ are entirely absent from the statutory curriculum guidance, meaning it would be possible for schools to leave them out of the curriculum altogether! We think schools should teach evolution – and not creationism!

If you want to know more about how we want to reform religion in schools in Northern Ireland, download our guide for parents today.


Read more on  the high court challenge in 2022

Read the Guide for Non-religious parents

For further comment or information, media should contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at boyd@humanists.uk or phone 07918 975795.

Northern Ireland Humanists is part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 120,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.