Sunday Herald: Scrutiny needed in schools–Edinburgh Secular Society


Opinion piece by Sunday Herald.

RELIGION in non-denominational schools is a sensitive matter. (View online here)

Recent claims that only 20% of parents feel adequately informed about their right to remove children from church services or assemblies have, for example, prompted calls for the rules governing religious observance to be changed. But non-religious parents will not be the only ones to be alarmed by evidence suggesting that some ­evangelical groups are ­providing volunteer helpers. Edinburgh Secular Society says these groups encourage members to offer support to teaching staff, or provide services such as outdoor education centres.

These volunteers may be well-intentioned and it is perhaps understandable that, with tightened budgets, headteachers are grateful for additional support and resources. However, religious education is supposed to be ­regulated according to nationally agreed guidelines, and it is important that teachers and local authorities are aware of what is going on within their premises.

Recent events at Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride should alert us to the need for vigilance. An inquiry is under way there into West Mains Church of Christ’s involvement in school activities, after books denouncing the theory of evolution were handed out to pupils. Given that some evangelical groups hold contentious views on issues such as homosexuality or the validity of science, all parents will want to know what their children are being told. The fact that a West Mains Church of Christ preacher had been helping out at Kirktonholme for eight years before questions were asked raises doubts as to whether the involvement of religious organisations in Scottish schools is being adequately monitored.

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