Irish Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has said that formal religious instruction in schools take up valuable class time that could be used in other ways, such as improving reading and math skills, according to the Independent.

Primary pupils spend 30 minutes a day on religion. In Catholic Schools, this includes preparing for sacraments, such as Communion and Confirmation. With a recent decline of academic achievement, Quinn said, the focus of education should be on the basics instead of religious instruction.

"It takes up a lot of time, some people suggest it might be done by parents or parish, perhaps within the school building but outside school teaching hours,” said Quinn at the annual conference of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS).

"Quite frankly, we have overloaded the curriculum."

Quinn set up a forum to discuss his decision to to transfer more than 1,500 church schools to other patrons. Ninety percent of Irish primary schools are currently being run by the church, and Quinn want to cut this figure to 50 percent for greater diversity.

Quinn said he respected the autonomy of the different school patron bodies and their commitment to education.

"This is a dialogue, but Ireland has changed,” he said.