As the start of another school year approaches, I wonder how many applicants for teaching posts are confronted with the injustice of unequal opportunities in Scotland. In a recent article Duncan Morrow warned about institutionalised sectarianism (21 July), and the unequal opportunities for teachers are a clear example.
Catholic schools (all denominational schools, in fact, but Catholic schools account for almost all) have the right to vet on religious grounds all applicants for teaching posts. The Catholic schools state clearly that they want only Catholic teachers.
Special Catholic teaching certificates have been invented so that non-Catholic applicants can be rejected on the grounds that they do not have the necessary qualifications.
On the other hand, the non-denominational schools are mostly Church of Scotland, but the Church does not have the kind of control there that we see in Catholic schools. There is no vetting of applicants for teaching posts on grounds of religion. The only input the Church has is through the nominees on the education committees. Those nominees are usually one Protestant and one Catholic anyway, so Church of Scotland input is diminished.
A glaring injustice in the present arrangements is that Catholics can apply for jobs in non-denominational schools, but non-Catholics cannot apply for jobs in Catholic schools.
Any young teacher who is not a Catholic must resent the fact that there is a sector of the state-funded education system which is closed to him or her.
Why should the state subsidise advantages for Catholic teachers over non-Catholics? Why should the state fund a closed shop which distorts the careers of teachers?
It is time the government looked again at the funding of denominational schools. The state took on the role of sponsor for religiously segregated education in 1918, but Scotland has changed radically since then.
There are good reasons to question the need for religiously segregated schools.
Common sense tells us that an integrated system would be more conducive to good social relations generally – and sociological studies in Northern Ireland have confirmed that.
Remedying the injustice of unequal opportunities for teachers is yet another reason for ending the unnecessary and unhealthy practice of segregation.