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Bishops hail poll blessing

THE Roman Catholic Church has hailed "dramatic and compelling" evidence from an opinion poll it has commissioned which found majority support for Catholic schools and overwhelming backing for the teaching of moral values.

The System Three poll of 1,016 Scots of all denominations, the results of which were issued yesterday (Thursday), found that 52 per cent believed the existence of Catholic schools is important - 24 per cent important and 28 per cent quite important (the total figure rose to 80 per cent among Catholics).

A massive 96 per cent endorsed the teaching of moral values.

The finding in support of Catholic schools contrasts sharply with the widely hyped survey by Strathclyde University recently in which 81 per cent of respondents said Catholic schools should be phased out.

A spokesman for the Catholic Media Office pointed to the "highly pejorative" question used in that poll on whether "separate" schools should be phased out. He said the Church had opted for a more neutral question:

"How important is it that Catholic schools should be available for Catholic parents to send their children there if they wish?"

Tony Gavin, headteacher of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston, said the latest findings did not come as a surprise. "This school has been oversubscribed over the years and when you speak to parents about the placing preferences, they always say they want their children to be educated within some kind of moral framework, with a clear sense of right and wrong and respect for one another."

Catholic schools were not something that was forced on parents, Mr Gavin said. "They have to be persuaded to opt in."

Bishop Joseph Devine, president of the Catholic Education Commission, said the findings were a welcome boost. The virtual unanimity in favour of moral values was "a vindication of the faith-centred education that denominational schools can provide".

Leader, page 22

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