I READ with interest Andrew Denholm's article on religious education ("Children 'facing Christian indoctrination in schools'", The Herald, April 16).
As an RE teacher in a non-denominational school I have often been puzzled about the legal right for parents to withdraw their children from RE lessons. The syllabus demands that a variety of philosophical approaches, including Humanism, are taught. Valuable skills in the application of knowledge, analysis and evaluation are given priority, with pupils encouraged to express their own views in an articulate manner. I have never experienced "indoctrination" in almost 20 years of teaching RE. Why shouldn't biology, art or business education also have an opt-out clause in that case?
I know that Brian Boyd seems to refer mainly to the primary sector with his comments about Darwinism, but he should be aware that, for example, in religious, moral and philosophical studies, again in non-denominational secondary schools, there are compulsory units, in a number of courses, focusing on scientific views such as evolution, as well as a variety of shades of religious belief – for example, creationism and liberal Christianity. Many primary schools do not focus "only on a Christian perspective", giving full coverage to other world religions.
I would appeal to anyone proffering their opinions on this subject to become properly acquainted with the reality of RE in schools. By all means criticise compulsory religious observance, and RE as taught in taxpayer-funded, denominational schools, many having an emphasis on Christianity as "objective truth", but do not lump together all secondary schools, or confuse religious education with religious observance. I would be happy to invite both Brian Boyd and Claire Marsh into my classes to assist them in their educational journey.
8 Haggs Gate, Glasgow.
BILL Brown quotes from the Scottish Government guidelines (Letters, April 17): "Religious observance - must be sensitive to individual spiritual needs and beliefs whether these come from a faith or non-faith perspective". Many non-denominational schools, however, consider it appropriate to have the chaplain, a minister of the Church of Scotland, hold a religious service.
When the draft syllabus for the new Higher exam in the subject of religious, moral and philosophical studies was issued for comment from interested parties, the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) asked that the choices listed for individual study by the student should be enlarged from the six "main" religions to include the "non-belief life stance". This was declined.
Denominational schools, as part of the state system, are required to welcome all children, regardless of creed, and to offer them an alternative activity to RE if they choose, yet these schools are advised, in the guidance issued by the Catholic bishops that "teachers should avoid presenting all denominations or faiths as equally true"- and ..."there is no place for the explicit study of atheism or humanism".
Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning and Skills, at a recent conference on the subject, said that religious and moral education should not be about indoctrination, that pupils should decide their own stances and that this was true in denominational as well as in non-denominational schools. Scottish Government guidelines are fine; unfortunately they are too often being ignored.
Education Officer, Humanist Society of Scotland, 272 Bath Street, Glasgow.
I NOTE with interest the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) letter and associated articles on rural school closures (The Herald, April 14). The letter and submission from Cosla bear a strong resemblance to a letter and guidance it sent to the Scottish Parliament in 2007. On this occasion MSP Elaine Murray described its input as "arrogant" and hoped "councils consulted communities and parents and no longer considered that they know best".
In the intervening five years it would appear that Cosla has learned very little. In contrast rural communities have embraced the information technology and freedom of information age. Vast bodies of research and statistics have been found and shared by communities from Shetland to the Borders. Council after council has been forced to withdraw consultation proposal papers because their financial arguments for the closure of rural schools were proven to be inaccurate.
The Commission on Rural Education has been sent detailed responses with duly-referenced research on educational, social and financial aspects of rural school closures. The Cosla submission is lacking in research or validation of its conclusions. In 2007 it was accusing rural parents of having a "myriad of tales to tell" and now it is making accusations of them perpetrating many myths. If the information supplied is mythical, why are councils repeatedly having to revise or scrap proposals?
The Cosla letter contradicts information already received and accepted by the commission. The chair of the commission has been prefacing public meetings with some of its findings which indicate a positive view of rural education. Cosla does not supply one shred of evidence to substantiate its position.
Chairman, Scottish Rural Schools Network, Palace Green, Arbirlot, Arbroath.
I READ with interest and a little unease the recent correspondence on Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). The debate is interesting, but rather narrow in scope (Letters, April 16, 17). The problem is in trying to illuminate the recent history of Scottish educational reform in a balanced and informative manner in a few paragraphs.
Every generation has to redraw the map of educational provision to respond to the demands of society and our citizens' needs. Since the 1960s Scotland has led the way in innovating the curriculum in such a manner – the comprehensive system, the raising of the school leaving age, Munn and Dunning, Standard Grade and Revised Higher, 5-14 and so forth – with numerous innovations in reporting, assessment, inspection and appraisal. This is the nature of education, where we must ask hard questions of what we are doing, how we are doing it and whether it really does meet the needs of our young people.
Despite these transformations and the increasing democratisation, equality and inclusivity of our system, we are still failing too many in our society. > written court coverage will continue to have a role in explaining the more detailed legal details and background of a case.
Greater openness will mean more of the public are better informed, which makes it a welcome step.
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