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Shame threat on school worship

SCHOOLS in East Dunbartonshire that do not comply with national guidelines on religious observance will be "named and shamed". Councillors backed the policy following a survey, initiated by Church of Scotland pressure, that showed two of 36 primaries failed to take part in religious observance at least once a week.

Five of nine secondaries, all non-denominational, were not delivering the minimum of one session of observance a month. The requirement dates from 1990 when the then Education Minister, Michael Forsyth, issued a circular demanding "frequent and regular" observance of "a broadly Christian character".

The two primaries said they "would work as quickly as possible" to meet the guidelines, two secondaries said they were addressing the issue as part of their development plan and the remaining three have been "advised to implement the guidelines as soon as possible".

Anne Cameron, deputy provost, told the education committee that schools should have been named in the report. "Religious observance should come from the home and be encouraged at school, but if it doesn't come from the home and is done at school then at least the children are allowed to experience a minimum level. If a school is not reaching this level, it should be named and shamed," Mrs Cameron said.

Charles Kennedy, another Labour member, described the report as "too bland". Councillors were entitled to know which schools were involved. "Religious observance is not an optional extra. The Inspectorate has set out guidelines and schools which do not meet these should be named."

Barbara Jarvie, Church of Scotland representative, said it was not enough just to offer the minimum. There had to be "better quality" religious practice and a review of how schools meet the requirements of different religions.

Officials will now conduct a more detailed study of religious observance and identify schools. Further advice may be sought from HMI on best practice for minority faiths.

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