Religious policy creates schism

10th October 2008 at 01:00

School chaplains have raised concerns that Glasgow's new policy on religious observance in schools could dilute the place of Christianity in education.

Although Glasgow City Council says it has received "overwhelming" backing from schools for its reforms, a "considerable" number of chaplaincies argued they did not need outside help to provide experiences which respect different beliefs and opposed non-Christian representation in their teams.

Some chaplains felt the importance of Christianity was "paramount" and should not look "compromised". Others expressed "some disquiet" that Christianity in non-denominational schools and opportunities for Christian worship could be diluted under the policy.

Conversely, some were unhappy about the increasing prevalence of religion in non-denominational schools.

The introduction of the policy requires schools to provide a total of at least six opportunities for religious observance or "spiritual development" over a school year, not including Christmas and Easter.

A report on consultation responses to the policy went before councillors this week, stating that it was viewed positively in most responses, including 90 per cent of those from secondary schools.

However, replies came from only 13 per cent of primaries (16 non- denominational and six Catholic) and 33 per cent of secondaries (eight non-denominational and two Catholic); others included four special schools, nine school chaplaincies and the Church of Scotland.

Not all were positive about children and young people planning and delivering "religious observance experiences", and half of the only pupil council which responded thought there was no place for religious observance in schools since it was a "personal matter". The pupil council also highlighted the importance of respect for diversity and believed the minimum of six opportunities for religious observance was too many.

A number of responses welcomed the separation of religious observance from religious and moral education. Some supported the opportunity to include non-faith perspectives in observance events.

A parent council member was concerned that non-denominational schools would become more identified with religious belief systems, and a parent thought there was a lack of humanist and secular groups.

The policy is the council's response to a national review group's recommendations, which followed HMIE findings that, between 1995 and 2000, schools were not providing enough opportunities for religious observance.

See the report in October 7 entry at www.glasgowcitycouncil.co.ukcommittee_minutespublicextcouncildiary.asp.

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