Anger over right to pull out from RE lessons

22nd October 2010 at 01:00

Secondary teachers have reacted with fury to guidance from the Scottish Government on religious education and observance.

They have heaped particular scorn on the statutory right of parents to withdraw children from RE lessons and religious observance.

The criticisms come from the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association in response to a consultation document, which is intended to replace existing guidance and reflect the new curriculum.

The SSTA said it was not religious "education" which parents had a right to reject but religious "instruction". But, the union said, "religious and moral education is no more `religious instruction' than modern studies is `political instruction'".

It is "patently absurd" for parents to be allowed to pull children out of RE lessons - "unless, of course, parents are also to be given the right to withdraw their children from modern studies, history, geography, biology, etc,".

The SSTA points to the Government's view that RE contributes to children's personal and social development, understanding of beliefs and values, capacity for making moral judgments, awareness of intolerance and ability to make decisions about what is true.

"Then why on earth should (the Government) think it right that some parents be allowed to disadvantage their children by withdrawing them from all of the above?" the SSTA asks.

The union is also angered by a suggestion in the draft document that RE could be taught by non-specialist teachers. This is "deeply concerning" and "it seems inconceivable that this could be considered for other subjects".

The document states that "the role of qualified teachers of religious education is very much an important one" but continues: "In circumstances where it is necessary to ask non-specialists to deliver RME, education authorities have a responsibility to ensure staff are well-supported and participate in appropriate CPD (continuing professional development)."

The union was also unhappy that consultation closed this week without having been widely publicised.


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