Are Scottish non-denominational schools really non secular?

(29 Posts)
TessaTwo Tue 02-Apr-13 09:22:38

Because I'm confused, chose a non-denominational school thinking there was no predominant religion, now hearing the pupils are going to Church of Scotland services?

ithaka Tue 02-Apr-13 09:27:50

Schools in Scotland must have acts of collective worship that are 'broadly christian' in nature. As the Church of Scotland is the national church, the local minister will often go into the school to deliver these acts of worship and there may be end of school type services in the local church. You have the right to withdraw your child from all religious services, but the school has no choice but to provide these acts of worship, regardless of the feelings of the headteacher.

mine also go to church services despite being in a non-denominational school. It doesn't really bother me and I did the same when I was at school.

TessaTwo Tue 02-Apr-13 11:37:03

Hmm ok just assumed that non-denomintaional would teach about religion but have no predominant bias. Both me and hubby were brought up catholic but no longer practicing, so our only experience is of catholic schooling. Are they the same then but for a different religion? I had really been hoping for a more rounded education on different religions rather than a bias towards any one but looks like that is not an option open to us in Scotland?

MrsMaryCooper Tue 02-Apr-13 11:50:01

Our primary school goes to the kirk at easter and at christmas for carols. That's about it. You can withdraw your child if you wish - they send a message out about it beforehand.

It was the same when I was at school. They do stuff for Diwali/Ramadan/Chinese New Year in school too, just don't go out to a different location.

Non-RC schools in Scotland are a lot less "religious" than RC schools are, but they are not completely secular. They usually have a tie in with the local kirk and use generally Christian hymns and prayers etc for their collective worship.

However they are not meant to teach your child that there is one religion that they ought to be following, and they are supposed to be open and encouraging to other faiths and atheism/agnosticism.

They also do not teach the children anything like the RC catechism, or prepare them for confirmation, or anything like that.

So it is not the same as RC schooling.

RE will also be about comparative religion - ie teaching about religions rather than assuming you have one.

Euphemia Tue 02-Apr-13 12:28:07

The Experiences and Outcomes for RME state:

"Learning through religious and moral education enables me to:
• recognise religion as an important expression of human experience
• learn about and from the beliefs, values, practices and traditions of Christianity and the world religions selected for study, other traditions and viewpoints
independent of religious belief
• explore and develop knowledge and understanding of religions, recognising the place of Christianity in the Scottish context
• investigate and understand the responses which religious and non-religious views can offer to questions about the nature and meaning of life
• recognise and understand religious diversity and the importance of religion in society
• develop respect for others and an understanding of beliefs and practices which are different from my own
• explore and establish values such as wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity and engage in the development of and reflection upon my own moral values
• develop my beliefs, attitudes, values and practices through reflection, discovery and critical evaluation
• develop the skills of reflection, discernment, critical thinking and deciding how to act when making moral decisions
• make a positive difference to the world by putting my beliefs and values into action
• establish a firm foundation for lifelong learning, further learning and adult life."

So Christianity will always feature.

I don't like it as a parent or as a teacher, but there it is. At least assembly is only weekly, and not always led by a minister!

I am very careful to present each religion in the same way in lessons, and avoid "us and them"-type language. Also last week I was certainly not giving my pupils colouring sheets with "Jesus died for our sins" written on them, unlike one of my colleagues. hmm

TessaTwo Tue 02-Apr-13 14:47:39

Thanks for the replies, so it sounds like its not as extreme as the rc church but still definitely still a religious bias. I don't agree with separating school based on religion, why segregate at such a young age? Which is why I opted for non- denominational, though looks like in doing this I have just opted for 'the other side', rather than a unified alternative. I find it quite depressing that in this day in age all religions and cultures are not being represented equally at school.

This link gives the current guidance to schools, and highlights the fact that "religious observance" is meant to be separate from ordinary assemblies etc.

It also says "Religious observance ... should be sensitive to our traditions and origins and should seek to reflect these but it must equally be sensitive to individual spiritual needs and beliefs, whether these come from a faith or non-faith perspective" - so, in theory at least, a non-denominational school is not "Church of Scotland", but it's likely that the religious observance is going to be heavy on Christianity and lighter on other religious influences and general "spirituality".

Personally, I don't think that school is the place for religious observance - if you want to raise your child in a faith, then take them to church/temple/whatever and show them the importance that you place on it in your own daily life. But I don't think Scottish non-denominational schools are too bad in general, and they do at least teach about other religions reasonably fairly. You certainly haven't just chosen the 'other side', you've chosen the 'much less dogmatic but still assuming its a basically Christian country' side.

JollyPurpleGiant Tue 02-Apr-13 15:40:55

It totally depends on the school though. At my second primary school I cannot remember any CofS minister at assemblies etc, although there was one came to my first primary school.

We were taught about about Easter and Christmas but also about Diwali.

It would be pretty unheard of for a school to not celebrate Christmas, which would be required if they were to be truly free from religious bias.

prettybird Wed 03-Apr-13 12:13:41

Depends on the school. Ds went to a very ethnically mixed primary school (60% ethinic minorities - inner Glasgow) and as a result "celebrated" Christmas, Diwali and Eid. They visited the local mosque but I don't recall them every visiting the local church.

At his secondary school (slightly less ethnically mixed), they do have a church service at Christmas (last day) that the pupils can choose to go to. I only found out about it at as it was mentioned at a Parent Council meeting in January. I asked ds if he had gone - he said, "Why should I, I'm not religious?!" grin given that we've never gone to church, what did I expect hmm I suppose I should be grateful that he was actually at school on the last day of term before Christmas wink

TessaTwo Thu 04-Apr-13 15:47:21

The more I think about this the more annoyed I get. Basically in my catchment I have the option of sending my son to a Catholic school which is really an exteme very catholic school or a so called non denominational school which in my area is in fact a Protestant school. Why should I have I make him an 'outsider' by excluding him from religious observance am I being unreasonable to be annoyed by this? No wonder we have such a catholic/Protestant divide in glasgow

Euphemia Thu 04-Apr-13 21:13:09

There was a bit consulation about this a couple of years ago, and one of the recommendations was that any mention of Christian observance be taken out of so-called non-denominational schools.

The end result had to take into account tradition, public views, the churches' views, etc. Our society isn't at the stage of accepting completely non-denominational schools.

As for sectarianism, that runs much deeper than the school system!

Remember that schools only have children for 25 hours a week, of which no more than an hour is likely to be spent on religious observance, if that. We as parents have much more influence over children's beliefs.

Euphemia Thu 04-Apr-13 21:15:10

which in my area is in fact a Protestant school

Is it really? In which ways?

Roseformeplease Thu 04-Apr-13 21:17:23

I teach in, and my children attend, non denominational schools in Scotland. There is NO compulsory worship and RE is optional. We do carols at Christmas and that is all. It really depends on the Head. These are not CofS schools but genuinely non denominational. Any visits from the minister (rare) are balanced by visits from the priest. We alternate churches at Christmas time. We have no visits from other religions because there are none locally but they would be made equally welcome. TBH I think you are over-reacting.

TessaTwo Fri 05-Apr-13 00:18:44

But don't you think Euphemia that if we stop segregating kids at the age of 5 then their generation would at least grow up to see that they can be friends with people of the other religion?
Maybe my non denominational school is extreme, but the principle is the same, why are we forced to choose one Christian religion over the other when sending our children to school? Why don't we have the option to choose 'neither'

TessaTwo Fri 05-Apr-13 00:27:28

Roaeforme, your school sounds like the school I imagined for my son, where he could learn about many religions and decide in his own time whether he wanted to follow one. I feel a bit cheated that my own catchment school is not like this

SingingSands Fri 05-Apr-13 00:47:39

Tessa, I think you are going slightly off track. Choosing a school is not about segregating children. If you are a Catholic and would like your children raised in the faith and supported at school then that is a valid parental choice. My friend does exactly that and yet our kids still play together and we don't "segregate" them!

SingingSands Fri 05-Apr-13 00:49:57

Also, just because your "other choice" of school is not Catholic, does not make it "Protestant". Can I presume from your comments you are in Glasgow?

we have a combined campus school-one Catholic and the other non-denominational. The children are split for lessons but share the playground and dinner hall. A good idea I think. I am near Glasgow.

Euphemia Fri 05-Apr-13 07:30:49

Tessa is your DS really not learning about the other world religions?

JollyPurpleGiant Fri 05-Apr-13 07:32:04

In Aberdeen there are 3 catholic schools. The rest are non denominational. You need to make a conscious decision to send your child to a catholic primary if that's what you want.

There are no specific catholic secondaries, they are all in together smile

The non denominational schools are definitely not protestant. They are just not Catholic.

Euphemia Fri 05-Apr-13 07:34:52

My DD was best friends at Nursery with a girl who went on to the village Catholic school. DD and I had many discussions about why, what different people believe, etc. as a result.

She has remained good friends with her, so it's not necessarily the case that denominational schools cause divisions.

I personally disagree with denominational schools, but that's down to personal choice.

weegiemum Fri 05-Apr-13 07:37:38

My dc go to school in Glasgow - they all have assembly weekly but "religious observance assembly" once a term. They really don't like it, but that's mainly as its mind-bogglingly boring (I've been) and as they are used to going o a lively, interesting, child-friendly community focused church, assembly is just one more thin to sit through!

exoticfruits Fri 05-Apr-13 07:38:28

How can non denominational be secular? confused
There seems to be a huge misunderstanding of the term.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now