[Catholic] Politics news Alert
16 January 2014
Have your say on the role of Church representatives on
Responding to proposals to remove the obligation on local authorities
to appoint religious representatives to Education Committees
In recent times in Scotland, various groups have been making attempts to bring about changes to legislation in order to limit the presence of religion in public life, particularly in schools. John Finnie MSP is currently consulting on his proposal for a Bill in the Scottish Parliament to change the current arrangements whereby Councils are obliged to make 3 places available for Church representatives on their Education Committees. This follows on a recent petition to the Scottish Parliament which has resulted in a wider review of this issue. There is a danger that, if the main voices raised in this debate are secular, the contribution of Church representatives to Council discussions of Education issues could be lost.
Why are there Church representatives on Council Education Committees?
Long before education authorities ever existed, schools had been established and were run by the Churches. So, when they were transferred over to be managed, initially by local Public School Boards and later by local education authorities, the ongoing involvement and expertise of Church representatives was seen to be invaluable.
Today, the majority of schools are non-denominational, and Churches are not directly involved, although religious education and religious observance are still part of standard school provision.
Denominational schools, which educate approximately 20% of Scotland’s school pupils, offer an ethos and values which emerge from their particular religious traditions and they work closely with local parish communities. Their approach is supported by a legislative framework which governs both the appointment of teaching staff and the content of religious and moral education programmes.
[What] is the argument for having Church representatives today?
Those people who are nominated by the Churches to contribute to the work of education committees live in the local community. Most are laypeople people and many have significant experience of working in senior education posts. Their contributions are focussed on the needs of the local community and are influenced by their own particular expertise. Their input to the local democratic process is often greatly appreciated by education officials and by elected representatives. Like other non-elected members on Councils, they freely give up their own time to serve their local communities and operate on a non-political basis. In short, they make an invaluable contribution.
Catholic schools were “transferred” into state ownership in 1918 in the same Education Act which established local education authorities. That arrangement came about as a result of assurances given that the specific characteristic of the Catholic school would be protected in legislation. One of the mechanisms for monitoring the State’s ongoing commitment to those assurances is the presence of a Catholic Church representative on every Council where there are Catholic schools. While Catholic Church representatives play a wider role than merely safeguarding Catholic schools, their role in doing so is seen by the Church as vital to the welfare of Catholic schools. Thus the Church is opposed to any attempt to dispense with the role of Church representatives on Education Committees.
How you can help
1 Respond to the consultation on the Proposed Local Government Acccountability and Transparency (Scotland) Bill which can be found at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/69470.aspx
Responses are due by 27th January 2014 and comments can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
or by post to
John Finnie MSP
Edinburgh EH99 1SP
2 Contact your MSP with your views on this proposed bill.
3 Contact your local Council to let them know your views on the proposed Bill.