A deeper ethos

13th April 2001 at 01:00
The so far unsuccessful request by a non-Catholic Livingston pupil to attend the Roman Catholic St Margaret's Academy has focused attention again on the characteristics of denominational education which make it attractive to some parents while continuing to raise the hackles of others.

A caring, family-centred ethos is regularly cited, not least as a way to achieving the better exam results that Catholic secondaries secure when compared with non-denominational schools of similar socio-economic composition. The ethos of a school is, however, also raised in the report this week of the Church of Scotland education committee ahead of next month's General Assembly.

The Kirk has a commitment to religious and moral education, which its more informed members are able to separate from specfically Christian observance. It was deeply involved in the Section 2A controversy and the development of materials for sex education. Its report highlights the challenge of less fortunate members of the school community - those with serious behavioural problems and those whose education is affected by handicap.

Since as far back as the Disruption church influence over schools has been in decline. There is a new concern about church representatives as councils change or do away with education committees. But all is not lost: the emphasis on school ethos, the curricular focus on citizenship, young people's interest in clashes between moral imperatives and political expediency - all these offer the churches an opportunity to play a role without being accused of proselytising.

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