The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has expressed dismay and puzzlement at the Scottish Government’s decision to remove references to Catholic schools and denominational education for a draft of updated guidance on relationships, sexual health and parenthood in Scottish schools.
The Scottish bishops issued a statement calling for the reinstatement of a previous draft which made clear the legal protection afforded to schools with a religious character, but also showing support for Catholic schools as an integral component of the Scottish education system.
The bishops called on Scottish Catholics to respond to the government consultation by making clear their concern at the removal of reference to Catholic education.
A draft letter template addressed to the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills draws attention to question six of the consultation, which asks: “Is the guidance sufficiently clear in ensuring faith and belief is accurately captured in RHSP education?”
Scottish Catholics have been urged by the to reply in the negative and to express concern that references to Catholic education and, but for one brief reference, denominational education, have been removed from the draft guidance and to ask that they be reinstated.
Nearly one fifth of the school estate in Scotland consists of Catholic schools, serving parents and families of all faiths and none. The existing guidance makes no distinction between schools with a distinctive faith foundation and children who happen to be raised in a religious or faith-based environment.
It is suggested that the guidance needs to reflect that schools of a religious character take a holistic approach to all areas of the curriculum and to all school activities, irrespective of individual students’ faith background.
More than 50 per cent of Scots identify with a faith, with Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism the largest communities. All make aspects of sexual behaviour and conduct in relationships a key aspect of teaching.
In addition, it is clear that religiously aggravated hate crime is still a problem in Scotland, though there is ongoing controversy about what precisely constitutes such crime.