Tag Archives: Secular Education

ESS Press statement on sectarianism in relation Scottish schools

Saturday 14 December 2014 – For immediate release

A recently published report commissioned by the Scottish government  (Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland Independent Advice to Scottish Ministers and Report on Activity 9 August 2012 – 15 November 2013) claims that denominational schools have no causal influence on sectarianism.

This seems hard to believe.

The report expresses concern about sectarianism but offers no alternative explanation for its existence.

It is incredible that even as the advisory group endorses educational apartheid according to the religious beliefs of parents, it urges schools both to work on their “co-operation and relationship building” and to be “imaginative” in constructing “anti-sectarian partnerships.”

It flatly contradicts the experience of Northern Ireland which has had to deal with this problem at its most acute. Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said in November 2011 "We cannot hope to move beyond our present community divisions while our young people are educated separately.”

Edinburgh Secular Society Education Officer and parent Veronica Wikman says:

“Segregation of children is always going to be counter-productive to the aim of creating social cohesion. It is naïve to suggest that segregated schools are not a huge contributing factor to sectarianism.”

ESS Press and Communications Officer Neil Barber adds:

”This suggestion flies in the face of common sense. Is the faith school lobby so powerful that the Government’s advisory group on tackling sectarianism is ignoring the elephant in the room?”

Bill submitted to Scottish Parliament that would abolish religious representatives on education committees

Originally posted on secularism.org.uk: Wed, 06 Nov 2013 10:39

Bill submitted to Scottish Parliament that would abolish religious representatives on education committees

An independent Member of the Scottish Parliament, John Finnie, has given his support to a campaign to remove the legal right of religious groups to vote on education matters on local council committees.

Mr Finnie has submitted a Private Member’s Bill that seeks to remove the mandatory involvement of religious representatives on these committees.

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Scotland’s young people deserve better than this

Young people have a human right to sexual health and relationships education. Something which the religious minority in Scotland is taking away, argues Gary McLelland (originally published on www.secularism.org.uk on 29 October 2013).

Scotland, like many areas, is working to promote safe and healthy relationships, especially among its younger citizens.

As with many issues in Scottish education, religious sectarian divides exist to the detriment of youngsters.

The current guidance from the Scottish Government on sexual health and relationships education comes from a circular issued in 2001. This was produced just before the repeal of Section 28 (2A in Scotland), however as the guidance states, this was a key factor for consideration in the document.

The 2001 guidance states quite clearly that:

"Programmes of sex education should present facts in an objective, balanced and sensitive manner within a framework of sound values and an awareness of the law on sexual behaviour."

This was, at the time, a welcome progressive move from the Scottish Government, an acknowledgement that young people have a human right to appropriate factual education about sexual health and relationships, and given the political environment at the time, was clearly a sign of a move towards a progressive secular Scotland, where the reactionary cries of religious fanatics was being firmly put in its place.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has made LGBT equality a cornerstone of his political career, the slogan ‘It Gets Better’ is used to denote his party’s alliance with equality.

This image of progressive equality has taken a bit of a battering recently, with the discussions around the introduction of same-sex marriage. Religious groups have been the most vocal in Scotland against the introduction of marriage equality north of the border, with the meek and mild Church of Scotland being forced into embarrassing anti-social positions.

Despite the fact that many of Scotland’s religious citizens, including the majority of Roman Catholics, are in favour of marriage equality, and the Quaker Church in Scotland of the opinion that it would strengthen the institution of marriage, religious groups have not been shy in queuing up to claim ‘religious persecution’. Despite the Scottish Government’s clear plans to legislate for same-sex marriage, it has held a lengthy consultation period, seeking a range of views on either side.

It seems that despite their previous commitment to equality and a progressive secular society, the Scottish Government is keen not to offend any religious groups. So much so that they are intent to legislate a ‘conscience clause’ or backdoor opt-out for any person who considers their religious beliefs to overrule equality.

Not content with ensuring that any religious groups can discriminate against same-sex couples whilst they act on behalf of the State to solemnise marriages, the Scottish Government has now gone one further in effectively making sexual health, relationships and parenthood education optional.

In a draft revision of the 2001 Circular, the Scottish Government has inserted a very vague conscience clause:

"In issuing this guidance it is the Scottish Government’s expectation that if a teacher, child or young person is asked to do something against his or her conscience, he or she should be able to raise this with the school or local authority."

This clause is worryingly vague and has been written, by the Scottish Government’s own admission, as a response to the proposed legislation on same-sex marriage. This is clearly an attempt by the Government to stop the requirement (of 2001) that teachers teach the law.

Even more worryingly is that this opt-out now applies to pupils as well. Unless this clause is seriously revised, or removed, we may see a situation in Scotland where religious teachers are not expected to teach the law, and parents and pupils may remove themselves.

It seems, for the Scottish Government at least, the vocal views of the religious minority have trumped the reasoned and sensible majority, and that the education of young Scots comes a mere second to the hurt feelings of the Godly.

As Scotland moves towards one of the most important periods in 300 years, is the Scottish Government really content to treat its young citizens in such a childish way.

The consultation can be viewed here.

Edinburgh Secular Society challenges undemocratic religious representatives

Click here to sign our petition.

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Edinburgh Secular Society Vice-chair Colin Emerson has submitted a petition to The Scottish Parliament to ask it to instruct The Scottish Government to bring forward legislation to remove the legislation which places a requirement on the all 32 local authorities in Scotland to appoint three ‘religious representatives’ to their education committees.

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Edinburgh Secular Society meet with representatives of the Church of Scotland

On Friday 27th September 2013, Gary McLelland, Colin Emerson and Norman Bonney (Chair, Vice-chair and Honorary President of Edinburgh Secular Society) met with representatives of the Church of Scotland at their offices in George St, Edinburgh. Present from the Kirk were Ewan Aitken (Secretary of Church & Society Council), Sally Fulton-Foster (Convener of Church & Society Council) and Sandy Fraser (Convener of Education Committee).

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Edinburgh Secular Society member Neil is featured in Herald Scotland

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The Christian ‘missionaries’ at work in our schools–Sunday Herald

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Edinburgh Secular Society’s research into evangelical Christian groups targeting the country’s schools has been recognised in this article by Sunday Herald.

Edinburgh Secular Society believes that there is compelling evidence that Scotland’s non-denominational schools are being turned into de facto state-funded Christian faith schools.  You can view the article online, or below:

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Sunday Herald: Scrutiny needed in schools–Edinburgh Secular Society

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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.

Religious Clarity: Norman Bonney writes in The Scotsman

 

The furore in a South Lanarkshire school that has led to the banishment of members of the Church of Christ from the chaplaincy and volunteer roles in the school and the reassignment of the head and deputy head to other duties with the local education authority (your reports) raises numerous issues.

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Prof AC Grayling shares his thoughts on secularism with Edinburgh Secular Society

Edinburgh Secular Society is grateful for AC Grayling’s support.

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