ALISTAIR McBay fosters the notion that Catholic schools embody and perpetuate sectarianism, reinforce social divisions and indoctrinate young people (Letters, January 12).

After all, part of the National Secular Society's agenda is that faith not be taught as true but as a matter for relative study. Furthermore, it insists faith be excluded from the schools' criteria for employment and admission, something which, as they are well aware, would have the effect of destroying the much-vaunted "Catholic ethos".

Schools are an extension of the family and the community, not the state. Education is about the formation of habits and virtues; it cannot exclude the religious dimension. Serving the most disadvantaged and underprivileged has always been central to the mission of Catholic education – Catholic schools are the most ethnically diverse and international of all maintained schools. Catholic schools are oases of diversity and tolerance; they instil a strong ethos of service to wider society; and the sense of identity and belonging which independent inspectors consistently applaud in them is what leads to broad-minded citizens.

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Martin Conroy,

Daisy Cottage, Oldhamstocks, East Lothian.