Anti-sectarian drive set for August

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Schools will move increasingly to the centre of the Scottish Executive's anti-sectarian crusade, as the First Minister held the first national summit on sectarianism this week.

While the role of schools was not specifically on the agenda, the presence of Bernard McLeary, chief executive of Learning and Teaching Scotland, as one of only two educationists invited, underlined the importance the Executive attaches to getting its message across to pupils.

The other educationist present was Rowena Arshad, director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland at Edinburgh University.

Both LT Scotland and the CERES have been involved in directing an educational resource project for teachers and youth workers, which aims to challenge sectarian attitudes and promote tolerance among young people.

The website-based resource is being piloted among 3-18s in five authorities -North Lanarkshire, Dundee, Highland, Dumfries and Galloway and West Dunbartonshire. The Executive plans to launch it nationally this spring when the website goes live and have it available for use in schools from the new term in August.

An evaluation of the project, so far unpublished, is understood to be very positive about its effect on teachers' confidence in dealing with the issues.

The summit did not live up to the billing in weekend press reports that it would be dominated by segregated schooling, concentrating on the wider issues of educating the public.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, did, however, propose a "charter of religious freedom", establishing a right to "establish and maintain corporate institutions and services" and conduct them in accordance with religious beliefs and values.

The issue of separate schools arose only briefly, ironically involving Jim McCabe, leader of North Lanarkshire Council, which ran into conflict over plans to build new shared campus schools. Mr McCabe refuted claims that integrating all schools would root out sectarianism.

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