NOT for the first time, Kevin McKenna has used his column to demand that the Catholic Church should continue to enjoy the privilege of publicly-funded Catholic schools ("Why Catholic Church fears losing opt out on sex education", The Herald, November 11).

One hundred years ago Scotland was a very different place. A dominant Church of Scotland had leading members who were virulently anti-Catholic. This was reflected across much of wider society. Today, what remains of the Church of Scotland is free of such bigotry and society largely reflects this. Militant Protestant bodies such as the Orange Order do exist but they are just pathetic, if unpleasant, historical hangovers. So Catholics no longer face the real persecution which once justified their privilege of having separate state-funded schools. In addition, even if Catholic schools do not help to fuel sectarianism (and I am not convinced of that), their existence certainly does nothing to help end it.

The job of schools is to prepare pupils for adulthood, equipping them with the knowledge they will need to play their part in society. The knowledge they need does not depend on a pupil’s religion. Two plus four is six, regardless of whether you are a Methodist, a Hindu or a Buddhist. A verb is a “doing” word, whether you are a Muslim, a Humanist or a Jew. In both Anglican and Catholic science e=mc2. Regardless of whether you are a Hindu, a Free Presbyterian or an atheist, the First World War started in 1914.

It is of course important that, in order to understand our history and the modern world, pupils learn a bit about each of the main religions and their sects. They need to learn about the positive and negative impacts religious faiths have had, and continue to have, on Scotland and on the wider world. Teaching should, however, not suggest that any particular religion or sect is the one pupils should follow. Balanced and unbiased teaching about religion would equip pupils to make their own minds up if, as is their right, their parents choose to evangelise on behalf of their own religion either at home or with the help of their church, mosque, chapel, synagogue, temple or whatever.

Scotland is now home to people of many different religions and also a home to a great many of us with no religious beliefs. There can be no justification for continuing to provide separate schools for just one religious group just because it was persecuted one hundred years ago.

Alistair Easton, Edinburgh.

Government must respect parents' wishes

AS a head teacher, Chair of the Catholic Education Commission and the first Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, I had almost 20 years' experience of dealing with Scottish Government officials and ministers on various matters pertaining to Catholic schools in Scotland.

In these discussions, I invariably found Scottish Government personnel to be respectful of the moral teaching offered in Catholic schools, even if they didn't personally subscribe to it. On occasions, they needed to be reminded of the original purpose of the 1918 Education Act in providing safeguards to protect the denominational character of Catholic schools. Subsequent legislation and statutory guidance has always sustained these protections.

I am utterly bemused, therefore, that First Minister Humza Yousaf and Jenny Gilruth, his Cabinet Secretary for Education, should issue new guidance on relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) teaching that seems to dispense with long-standing assurances that Catholic schools can teach in accord with the religious and moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Surely they don't believe that parents who enrol their children in Catholic schools are simply going to accept such blatant provocation? I am astonished that their officials haven't advised that imposition of this guidance will breach primary legislation by changing the religious character of Catholic schools.

Hopefully, the Scottish Government will come to its senses and once again show respect for the wishes of the parents who freely choose Catholic schools for their children, precisely because of their religious character.

Michael McGrath, Glasgow.

Read more: Catholics say Scot Government wants to overturn sex education opt-out

Do we really need in-service days?

I WAS disquieted on reading this week's Secret Teacher article (“My eyes are rolling... it must be an in-service day at my school”, The Herald, November 13).

I was surprised that public money is spent on further training of serving teachers in Scotland when it appears from the article that no assessment or accountability within the school appears to be enacted at the end of the in-service course to ensure that the content was fully understood and implemented by the participants.

However, more fundamentally, the need for such courses begs the question why teaching staff, who wish to be treated as professionals, require such courses if they have been extensively trained initially with the capacity to adapt themselves to the future.

I would have thought that, apart from changes in teaching and learning resources where practical in-service courses are very likely required, it could be anticipated that professionals would read online what is expected of them by way of developments.

However my disquiet stems from the revelations the Secret Teacher has commented on in this regard and leads me to think that my normal trust in the integrity of our present-day teaching force is not always as fully justified as I had imagined. The problem with any profession is that if questioned on an issue, the members invariably pull out sheaves of their paper qualifications and claim equal rights on professional opinion.

Bill Brown, Milngavie.

A timeless opportunity

I AM rather taken with the "extremely rare" vacancy that has arisen at Fort William (“Extremely rare job opening on railway”, The Herald, November 13) for a train driver. Have similar positions of retiring train drivers at that location in the past been advertised or indeed promoted in similar fashion?

Certainly not in such gushing terms evoking the natural splendours of that particular rail route requiring skills commensurate with such features. The applicant should take note (and everyone else for that mater) the passenger stock used on these ScotRail services are now around 35 years old with nothing as yet placed on the order books to replace them. With ScotRail now in the governance of the Scottish Parliament and its dismal track record in public transport matters, the new appointee may well be approaching retirement before new stock appears.

One thing is certain, the geophysical beauty viewed from the lineside will, barring climate changes and human intervention, outlast all else what ere may betide.

John Macnab, Falkirk.