RC primaries will miss papal visit

10th September 2010 at 01:00
LAs opt to keep denominational schools open on day of pontiff's visit to Glasgow

Catholic primary heads say they are disappointed that many teachers, pupils and their families will miss out on the papal visit to Glasgow next Thursday, because most authorities are not closing denominational schools early on the day.

Liz Dornan, chair of the Catholic Headteachers' Association for Primaries in Scotland, singled out South Lanarkshire for praise as the only local authority to give denominational schools the option of closing early on the day and making up the time by the end of term.

Most authorities have told teachers that, if they wish to attend the papal mass in Glasgow's Bellahouston Park, they must seek unpaid leave of absence or, if they wish to take a paid leave of absence, must make arrangements within their own school.

But Mrs Dornan said she believed many staff at Catholic schools had, in a gesture of solidarity, taken the view that if they could not all go, none should go.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a quarter of tickets to the Bellahouston event were still unsold. Mrs Dornan said she was sure the decision not to close schools was a factor.

The Mass at Bellahouston is by invitation to parishes only and the Scottish Catholic Education Service has made no requests for half or full- day closure of Catholic schools.

Michael McGrath, director of SCES, told The TESS that Catholic secondaries had been invited to be represented but there were no plans to invite primaries, because of the anticipated length of the service - entry to Bellahouston is at 3pm, with the mass due to begin at 5pm and finish at 7- 7.30pm.

However, Mrs Dornan said: "There is a strong feeling that older primary children would have enjoyed the experience."

She said a number of heads were disappointed they could not attend the mass: they felt they were being expected to support teachers who wanted to go by covering their classes.

"Headteachers feel they have to stay and man the ship, but they would have been the people going in normal circumstances," said Mrs Dornan. Leading a Catholic school was a demonstration of a headteacher's commitment to the Catholic faith, she added.

She continued: "Obviously, it would have been easier for everyone if the schools had closed."

Papal dates

Sept 16 morning, Edinburgh: a St Ninian's Day parade, featuring 1,000 pipers, a pageant of figures from Scottish history and representatives of the 13 Scottish schools named after St Ninian will precede the papal motorcade as it proceeds along Princes Street.

Sept 16 evening, Glasgow: 16 short videos made by primary schools around the country will be broadcast on large screens before the mass at Bellahouston. Secondary schools are bringing around 7,000 pupils to participate at the mass;

Sept 17 London: more than 3,000 young people from Catholic schools across Scotland, England and Wales will take part in the Big Assembly at St Mary's University College, Twickenham.

Sept 19 Birmingham: a group of pupils and staff from Cardinal Newman High in Bellshill will attend the papal mass for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.


  • Original headline: Business as usual means RC primaries will miss papal visit

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