Joint faith schools
Alan McCombes & Eddie Truman
SSP Research, Policy & Media Unit
Briefing Note: 25/01/04
Joint faith school campuses
It is likely that at some point our MSP's and other public figures will
be asked to comment on recent developments regarding joint faith school
campuses and on the longer term issue of denominational and religious
This is an issue over which we must be ultra sensitive and understanding
towards all positions and faiths involved in a situation which can
easily become inflamed, as events reported in the
media in relation to St David's school and Dalkeith High in Midlothian
If the Scottish Socialist Party was laying plans for a Scottish
education system from scratch we would put in place a completely secular
system within which there would be no place for religion other than as
an academic topic for study.
But this is not the situation we face in Scotland at the beginning of
the 21st Century.
Broadly speaking, we welcome moves to bring together denominational
schools in Scotland on a voluntary basis, with the agreement of the
pupils, parents and relevant school authorities.
If reports that the Catholic Church are considering the possibility of
refusing to use seven primary school sites in Lanarkshire are true, we
would urge them to reconsider as we believe joint campuses are a step
along the way of eradicating sectarian divisions within Scotland's
The SSP does, however, recognise that Catholic schools were originally
set up because of the discrimination and persecution that Catholic
children faced within the Protestant State system and that leaders of
the Catholic community saw segregated schools as a means
of over coming sectarianism.
shown, however, that segregated schools have had the opposite effect of
increasing sectarian divisions in Scotland's communities.
The SSP is
opposed, however, to enforced de-segregation in the form, for instance,
of the closing down of Catholic schools against the wishes of the local
The SSP recognises that Scotland's State schools are not on the whole
non-denominational, secular educational establishments. They reflect, to
one degree or another, the religion of the Scottish state, Calvinist
In many of
Scotland's state schools, a weekly assembly is taken with religious
elements conducted by a Church of Scotland minister, school holidays are
focused exclusively around Christian holidays and in many schools the
ideology of Protestant Christianity is actively
As long as this
situation exists, parents who wish their children educated from a
different religious or faith perspective must have the right to do so,
subject to a statutory system of rights and standards for their
The SSP absolutely rejects any attempts to coerce those of a particular
religion or faith to conform to regulations and laws which they feel
discriminates against them because of their religious beliefs.
France surrounding the ban on Muslim girls wearing the headscarf, the
Hijab, in school are an object lesson in how not to deal with the issue
of religion in the education system.
Far from moving
the cause of secular education for our children on, bans and
proscriptions on religious minorities always and forever plays into the
hands of religious zealots of every flavour.
We would be
careful to emphasis that we are equally in favour of Muslim women and
girls having the right NOT TO cover themselves if that is what they
As an aside, members of the SSP in local areas may well have other
reasons for being involved in campaigns around new joint campus schools,
for instance in the use of PFI / PPP schemes to build them using private
This was in
fact the case in Midlothian were the building of the joint campus faced
opposition on religious grounds from some parents but the local SSP
branch was able to run a successful council by election campaign against
PFI involvement in the school without
becoming associated with those opposing the school on religious grounds.
Motion passed at SSP conference 2004
Aberdeen North / Central
Amendments accepted from Dundee East and Kelvin East
This conference agrees that;
The SSP is a secular party and stands for a secular Scotland.
That religion is a private, not a state matter.
The state shall not restrict an individual's right to freedom of
conscience, of worship or of religious observance.
The SSP opposes state bans on the wearing of religious symbols.
That Church and state are totally separate entities.
The conference calls for an informed, nationwide debate to be initiated
by the SSP over the course of the next year. This debate will address
concerns such as:
Promoting a secular society
Protecting freedom of religious worship
Combating Religious Sectarianism
Promoting the SSP's Policy of opposition to School closures.
Conference believes there is a need to balance the responsibility of the
state to guarantee a sound Education for all and an absence of
sectarianism and intolerance in schools with the equally important need
to promote the active democratic participation of pupils, parents,
teachers and other workers in the Education system in influencing the
nature of Educational provision.
recognises that a majority of SSP members are in favour of a Secular
recognise that significant numbers of people in Scottish society support
single faith schools and or the teaching of religious faiths as part of
the school curriculum.
Thus we will
actively seek to engage in debate with all sections of Scottish society,
but above all with pupils parents and teachers, to explain our belief in
secular education and to listen to and consult all interested parties.
The fruits of
this debate will be used to develop a more detailed policy proposal to
the 2005 Party conference.