The moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland came to visit Kilbowie Primary in West Dunbartonshire this month. As moderator, the Right Reverend John McIndoe, minister of Pont Street, London, is the Queen's religious representative in Scotland, and takes precedence over dukes and even the Prime Minister. "I like your gear," said one of the children, admiring his uniform.
As Mr McIndoe and his entourage were greeted at the entrance and taken on a tour through the school by the house captains, Primary 7 members of the pupil teacher council, and sports representatives, he cannot fail to have been struck by the school's commitment to the personal search aspect of moral education - one of the priorities in this year's development plan.
In the entrance and dining area, there are numerous signs of caring for others in the display of certificates from a wide range of charities for whom the children have raised money. In pride of place is the Caithness glass trophy, awarded annually to the school which raises most money for Christian Aid through participation in the Erskine Bridge Walk. This trophy has been presented for six successive years to Primary 7 pupils who undertake this commitment as part of the personal search aspect of religious and moral education.
The moderator led the worship at the Monday gathering, the weekly religious observance for Primary 4-7. He was following in the footsteps of regular contributors from the Methodist Church, the Open Air Campaigners, Salvation Army, the Scripture Union and the Victory Church as well as from our own Church of Scotland chaplain. Primaries 1-3 also gather weekly, and daily religious observance takes place in the class bays, where children usually lead their classmates in prayer; whole assemblies are held once a month. Together these ceremonies fulfil the requirements of the 5-14 guidelines.
Throughout the school there is evidence of the gradual implementation of religious education 5-14 and what the children are learning in personal search and about three selected religions (Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism). Walls and corridors are clad with impressive art and design work featuring shrines and synagogues, churches and temples, and golden buddhas calmly surveying the bustling bays.
Since staff consultation identified religious and moral education as a priority, the link between school development planning and appraisal became the vehicle for carrying it forward. The assistant headteacher, a senior teacher and a class teacher, who saw religious and moral education as a personal area of focus, set up a working party with an enthusiastic young teacher and, on occasion, the school chaplains. "Working'' is the operative word as, in addition to the 12 hours of contractual time allocated, they gave twice that from their own time.
What we have now is a major achievement: programmes of study with integral and varied forms of assessment, a bibliography, and boxes of resources including religious artefacts.
All of which, we hope, will lead to a better grasp of the subject. When a previous visitor to the school (one of Her Majesty's Inspectors) asked a P3 class to tell her about a Salvation Army assembly we had had, one child put up his hand and said it had been held by "the Army''. What army, the inspector asked. "Was it Proud Edward's, Miss?'' responded the child.
* Sheila Campbell is headteacher of Kilbowie Primary, West Dunbartonshire