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Churches differ over local education role

Contrasting experiences of church representatives on local education committees emerged from a conference in Stirling last week, unusually staged by all the churches.

Henry Philip, the Church of Scotland representative on Edinburgh City Council's education executive, told the conference he and the other two religious representatives had become more extensively involved in council committee work.

This work includes places on two appeals committees, the children and young people scrutiny panel and the headteacher appointments committee.

He added: "We are able to look at issues not just from a political point of view but from an educational one and make politicians look closely at their dogma and occasionally make them change their minds."

But Mr Philip said this level of participation does not come easily. "Yo really have to push yourself forward. The majority of politicians have no time for the church, and unless you show them that you have something to offer they will assume you have nothing to offer."

From the other side of the country, John McHugh, the Roman Catholic Church representative on the education committee in East Ayrshire, painted an altogether different picture. He told the conference that his involvement was "minimal" and he felt that he and the other two church representatives were "tholed, not welcomed".

Mr McHugh, former headteacher of Mount Carmel Primary in Kilmarnock, went on: "We are on the education committee but we have to make all the running and are not greatly involved. It seems to be that the traditional committee structure makes it more difficult to get church representatives involved."

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