The rough with the smooth

18th May 2007 at 01:00
The Green Party's support for integrated schools has generated huge online comment

THE ABOLITION of Catholic schools will not be on the agenda of the new administration, the Scottish Greens insisted this week, as the prospect generated one of the biggest exchanges on The TESS online staffroom - 390 messages since April 4.

The party is alone among those re-elected to the Scottish Parlia-ment in supporting integrated education - a policy which has fuelled the Scottish Catholic Observer to run a campaign during the election, supported by the Scottish Catholic Education Service, to "save Catholic schools".

But Patrick Harvie who with Robin Harper was one of only two Green MSPs to be returned in the elections, said that, in a period of minority administration, the Greens would be looking for common ground rather than differences. The party announced details this week of a loose agreement with the SNP to work with the nationalist minority government.

A spokesman for the Greens said the party's position on Catholic schools had been misrepresented and insisted that it was never a priority for the party.

The TESS discussions opened with the challenge from "mybabe": "At last... one of the political parties speaks common sense about education. Have any of the others got the testicular fortitude to make a similar promise?"

But the debate has polarised opinion and generated claims of bigotry on both sides of the divide. The discussion has raged from arguments about Catholic ethos and values, to bigotry and discrimination within the teaching profession, and equal opportunities for teaching jobs in all schools.

One contributor, "aisling7", posted: "With few exceptions, I've found that Catholic schools have better discipline and are more caring towards pupils, especially the disadvantaged. Many non-Catholic friends prefer to teach in Catho-lic schools because of the ethos."

On the other side of the debate, "Janek Kowalski" said: "If access to teacher training is restricted on denominational grounds then public money will, inevitably, be spent on less well-qualified students. Where a job market is restricted to candidates from within a select group, this may help otherwise unemployable teachers but their students are bound to suffer."

Mr Harvie, a Glasgow MSP who admitted he had been subjected to "vitriol"

over the issue while campaigning, said: "There is scope and space within a democracy to have a debate about the place of religion in public life and people should be able to have that debate."

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