Religious observance to stay in Scottish schools

Gordon MacRae: archaic. Picture: Contributed

Gordon MacRae: archaic. Picture: Contributed

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Religious observance slots are to remain in Scotland’s schools after fresh calls for their place to be reviewed were ruled out by the Scottish Government.

Humanists are demanding a review and have suggested it may be time to axe the “archaic” practice.

The call follows two recent high -rofile reports by the Arts and Humanities Research Council on Collective Worship and the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life which called for the issue to be re-examined in Scottish schools.

Ministers say that although “religious observance” or “time for reflection” slots are enshrined in status in Scotland, it is up to individual councils which form these take and they need not even involve worship.

But Gordon MacRae, chief executive of the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS), said it is time for change. “Scotland has historically been at the forefront in pursuing progressive reforms to the treatment of philosophy and belief in education, so this is discouraging,” he said

“The two reports analysed the policy situation across the UK, including a detailed assessment of what happens in Scotland.

“Both reports, which involved input from a range of stakeholders, concluded that religious observance needs to be reformed.

“With almost one-in-two adults, and over two thirds of young people, identifying as non-religious, perhaps it’s time to abandon this archaic approach from the 19th 
century.”

The Scottish Government has not looked at the policy in more then a decade and Mr MacRae says it is now time to review this.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “There is no legal requirement in Scotland for schools to ‘hold acts of collective worship’; instead the terms ‘Religious Observance’ or ‘Time for Reflection’ are used in statute and guidance. Education Scotland guidance on Religious Observance (Time for Reflection) explains how effective Religious Observance may take a variety of forms and need not include worship at all.”

But Liberal Democrat North East MSP Alison McInnes said the two reports should have instigated a change from ministers.

She said; “We need stronger action from the Scottish Government to ensure inclusive thinking on this trickles right down to schools so all children can study in a progressive and equal environment.”

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