No one should be in any doubt that a concerted effort is being made to remove any sign of religion from Scotland’s schools. In the wake of a recent attempts by secularist groups to end the current arrangements for Religious Observance in all schools, the latest tactic is to seek the removal of Church representatives from local Council Education Committees (details below). To gain a sense of perspective about this you can find attached below Michael McGrath’s article ‘Spreading the Good News of Religion in Schools’ which first appeared in the Scottish Catholic Observer on 1st November 2013.
The signs are clear that such attacks are likely to continue and that they could have a significant impact on the work of Catholic schools. The Catholic Church, through the Catholic Education Commission, SCES and other bodies, will always respond to such petitions and consultations. However, it is important that the parents of 120,00 children and young people who benefit from Catholic education in Scotland also make their views known. In particular we encourage Parent Councils to make their voices heard by proclaiming what they value in Catholic schools and by encouraging other parents to speak up on these issues.
It’s time for the (huge) silent majority to speak up.
Religious Observance in schools
The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee has recently been considering a petition to change the arrangements for Religious Observance in schools. (Petion details can be found here.) Details of the SCES submission on this petition can be found here: Petition to change Religious Observance in schools
Church representatives on Council Education Committees
A petition has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament, seeking to remove Church representatives from local Council Education Committees. (Details of this petition can be found here.) Church representatives are usually local laypeople or clergy with significant expertise in educational issues. They participate in the local democratic process by contributing their views to discussions and debates among elected representatives in Councils. Normally their contributions are valued and respected as being wise, informed and helpful. It would be a huge loss for the voice of the Churches – which represents a greater number of people than all those involved in political parties and trade unions in Scotland – to be silenced.
Further, on 4th November 2013 Independent MSP John Finnie published a consultation document “Promoting greater accountability and transparency in local government”, in which the one of the proposals relates to removing the obligation on local authorities to appoint religious representatives – but stating that they could continue to do so if they wished.
Mr Finnie would also want to see unelected members of any local govt committee losing any voting rights they may currently have so that only elected members can vote in committee meetings. The bill also covers making local authority decision-making more accountable, both in terms of recording voting and making meetings more accessible to the public. As this is a Members’ Bill process, the consultation will run for 12 weeks, until 20 January 2014.