GIVING more power to headteachers will increase the risk of pupils being exposed to young earth Creationism and the views of religious extremists, secularist campaigners have warned.
The National Secular Society (NSS) also attacked the existence of Catholic and other faith-based schools calling for children “of all faiths and none” to be educated together.
The criticisms came after the Scottish Government announced plans to move power over education away from councils and place more decisions in the hands of headteachers.
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John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said the moves would ensure decisions about children’s learning were taken as close as possible to local communities.
However, the NSS pointed to recent examples where Creationism had been discussed with pupils and where guest speakers with fundamentalist views visited schools to discuss issues such as sexual health.
Alistair McBay, NSS spokesman for Scotland, said: “If this is already happening under the present system, what are the implications for a revised system with more powers taken away from local councils and given to headteachers?”
On the wider issue of religious schools the NSS submission states: “The present governance system funds the segregation of children along religious, and often by default, ethnic lines.
“It is not in the interests of excellence for this discrimination and exclusion to continue to be tolerated.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) warned giving more power to headteachers would exacerbate a leadership recruitment crisis.
Figures from September show more than 100 primary and secondary schools were without a headteacher or deputy, with low pay, bureaucracy and a lack of support staff blamed.
The SSTA’s submission states: “As there is a growing recruitment crisis for headteacher and deputy posts, further devolving of powers to headteachers is another burden and will merely exacerbate this situation.
“The priority should be to identify those tasks that can be taken away from teachers and headteachers and undertaken more efficiently by those more suitable and qualified within the local authority.”
A separate submission from council chief executive group SOLACE Scotland states: “We do not believe focusing on further structural and legislative change is the way forward.
This risks adding further bureaucracy to the system and takes the focus away from improving outcomes for children.”
The Scottish Government said all responses would be considered now the consultation had finished.