The Church on Religious Observance in schools

The Church has written to a Scottish Parliament Committee to question calls for religious observance in non-denominational schools to be made opt-in.

It is anticipated that the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee will consider petition PE01487 which calls for religious observance to become an opt-in part of school learning.

This would be a fundamental change from the present position where religious observance is inclusive of all, though parents may opt-out and withdraw their children from this activity if they wish.

*Reverend Sandy Fraser, Convener of the Church of Scotland Education Committee said: “We strongly oppose this idea and urge the Scottish Government to keep the present system. We have submitted a written briefing to the Petitions Committee highlighting the benefits and inclusive nature of religious observance. I hope the petition will not be accepted.

“The Church of Scotland fully agrees with the Scottish Government’s view that religious observance should be something which is inclusive, valuable and meaningful for all.

“Religious observance in schools is something that benefits the entire school community and helps give pupils an idea of spirituality, it is not about promoting one faith over another. The Church believes that this properly reflects the multicultural, diverse Scotland of the 21st Century.

Religious observance in schools is something that benefits the entire school community and helps give pupils an idea of spirituality, it is not about promoting one faith over another. Reverend Sandy Fraser, Convener of the Church of Scotland Education Committee

“The Church of Scotland supported wholeheartedly the radical change in the practice of religious observance brought about by the 2000 review and the guidance that followed from that review,” he said.

Mr Fraser added: “Equally, it is utterly implausible to imagine parent having to opt in to other cross curricular or whole-school learning activities, such as Personal and Social Development or Physical Education.

“Why should religious observance be treated any differently? Young people have a right to spiritual development which is genuinely inclusive and reflective of the diversity of our nation.”

“The four capacities at the heart of Curriculum for Excellence require spiritual as well as intellectual, social and physical development to be truly about the whole child. Education needs to be led by professionals who put the best interests of all their young people first.

“To show our commitment to providing genuinely inclusive Religious Observance, The Church of Scotland is leading the way – we have worked with local authorities and others to deliver training events for school staff and community partners, including school chaplains, across the country. A highly successful Masters Module in religious observance in partnership with Glasgow University has been completed by almost 200 school staff and chaplains.”