David Scott reports from the General Assembly in Edinburgh
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has voiced growing concerns about the impact of the teachers' agreement on promoted posts in religious and moral education. Introducing the committee for education's report at the Assembly in Edinburgh this week, David Alexander, its convener, noted concerns about the general impact on teacher morale.
The report states that while education authorities and schools were organising the management of RME in a variety of ways, changes generally involved the loss of principal teacher and assistant principal teacher posts and the inclusion of RME in a faculty structure, generally social subjects.
"The committee on education rejects this approach," it says. "For some considerable time, RME has been included in the religious education mode, recognising the distinctive contribution made to the education of young people through dealing with beliefs, ideas, values and personal search.
"This provides young people with a different educational experience from that gained through study of a social subject. The committee, therefore, believes that the religious education mode and the distinctive approach it makes should be recognised and that all schools should have a PT post."
Mr Alexander pointed out that the Assembly had instructed the committee to press for the continuing inclusion of the importance of Christianity in the circular on the curriculum and to contest the proposed time reduction for primary school assemblies.
He said: "I am delighted to advise the Assembly that, following discussion with the minister, both of these objectives were achieved. As a result of the committee's representations, the place of religious education was also consolidated."
The committee, along with church representatives, was now monitoring the approach of education authorities to the implementation of the circular and looked forward to being involved in the work of Learning and Teaching Scotland in producing resource materials and guidance.
On sex and relationship education, Mr Alexander said the committee was concerned about the continuing lack of implementation of guidance concerning parental involvement and the need for clear protocols to be established to cover non-teaching staff working in this field in schools.
The Assembly voiced growing concern about the "seemingly endless plethora of reports and initiatives" which is putting increasing pressure on teachers.
Mr Alexander said the volume of reports and initiatives "and the hoop jumping" associated with them distracted from the prime focus of teaching and learning.
"It is time, we believe, for a degree of consolidation, along with a fundamental review of more important resource issues, especially staffing standards, in our schools," he said.
The report said the curriculum was overburdened and suffering from "a plethora of initiatives". It states: "For some time now Scotland has had an initiative-led education system. Education resources have been targeted at specific areas and have generally been time and resource limited.
"The committee believes that the education system should now move away from this approach and undertake a fundamental review of how these curriculum initiatives are resourced in terms of both staffing and other resources within the overall curriculum review."
The committee also voiced doubts over the use of national targets, saying these were of limited benefit in proving that national priorities were being delivered.
The report commended the use of self-evaluation by schools and their moves to ensure young people had high expectations and aspirations for themselves.
The Assembly unanimously approved the report, containing 10 recommendations, without debate. The Church and Society Council will now be required to explore and monitor a series of issues, including the role of teachers.