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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 schooling.

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 show.

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 education system.

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.

History has 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 community.

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 Protestantism.

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 children.

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.

Events in 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 wish.

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 money.

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

Secular Scotland
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.

Conference recognises that a majority of SSP members are in favour of a Secular Education system.

We also 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.


January 2005


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