I was reassured to read Les Reid’s letter (8 August) regarding “denominational” schools. I agree with his analysis, and, having attended Catholic schools myself, I would like to add a few points.
As well as religious beliefs, Catholic schools also have a clear socio-political agenda. During my school career I was repeatedly visited by “pro-life” campaigners, various priests and nuns and even taken to a seminary “retreat”.
While I don’t have any problem with this, I am concerned – angry even – that I was never given access to the other side of the arguments.
I’m disappointed our social and political leaders thought it would ever be acceptable for me to be confined to a school where only one religion was taught as the dogmatic truth, and questions and debate prohibited. There has already been evidence that Catholic schools are enforcing the Church’s anti-equal marriage campaign. The issue of Catholic schools’ recruitment practices was highlighted excellently by the National Secular Society, which showed that gay teachers continue to face discrimination.
I am astounded that in spite of the Catholic Church’s shameful handling of the sexual abuse and torture of the youngsters in its care, it continues to shelter itself against the full force of the law. Next year, Scots will make a choice about the future direction of our country. I hope the hierarchy of the Catholic Church will embrace their own teachings of humility, love and compassion and stop the outdated practice of religious segregation.
I thoroughly agree with Les Reid’s letter on the sectarian employment policy of Catholic schools.
It is distasteful enough for a private organisation to sequester young minds and employ only teachers who share its religious ethos, but the fact that the state funds these divisive schools is further evidence of the privileged exemption of religion from equality legislation.
Sixteen years of state-endorsed “them and us” schooling is unhealthy for pupils, teaching staff and wider society.
Edinburgh Secular Society
Les Reid complains of “the injustice of unequal opportunities for teachers”, saying there is “a glaring injustice in the present arrangements that Catholics can apply for jobs in non-denominational schools, but non-Catholics cannot apply for jobs in Catholic schools”.
In the UK, faith schools have been exempted from some aspects of equality legislation in order to preserve their freedom to be what they are – their ethos.
The law recognises that, just as it is not discriminatory to refuse to employ a committed carnivore as the director of a vegetarian charity, nor is it discriminatory to refuse to employ as principal of a Catholic school one whose belief or lifestyle is incompatible with the values the school embodies.
When it comes to employing people, therefore, the Catholic school has – and needs to continue to have – the same freedom to select people from a pool of those in sympathy with its ethos as do other charities and civil-society actors.
However, staff in Catholic schools are very far from all being Catholic as Mr Reid believes.
In fact, only three-fifths of teachers in maintained schools and colleges are Catholic – about 70 per cent in primary schools, less than 50 per cent in secondary schools.
Far from being sectarian and divisive, 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 that independent inspectors consistently applaud in them is precisely what leads to broad-minded citizens.