A CUMBERNAULD secondary head has been appointed by the bishops as the first director of the new Catholic education service.
Michael McGrath, head of Our Lady's High, has been handed the pound;67,000-a-year job of defending and promoting the role of denominational schools but denied that his role was a response to a crisis in Catholic education.
Mr McGrath, 50, current chairman of the influential Catholic Education Commission and the front-runner for the new post, said the move was a reaction to several years of "misperceptions" about Catholic schools' place in the Scottish system.
The post has been mooted for the past five years but the Church appears to have accelerated its response after threats to denominational schooling from the promotion of shared campuses, a model floated last December by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, as a means of combating sectarianism.
Mr McGrath said that people misunderstood Catholic education if they believed it promoted sectarianism. He also rejected accusations that Catholic education had failed in its mission to persuade young people to turn up at mass on Sundays. "We are not failing, we are being challenged," he said.
One way of tackling the drop in church attenders was to offer pupils "a richer liturgical experience".
Mr McGrath also expressed sympathy for other groups that wish to argue a case for their own faith schools.
He will take up the Glasgow-based post in August and will begin to establish a support service for teachers and schools, preparing courses and materials to promote understanding of faith issues.