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Religious influence on schools 'strengthened significantly'

Report has found influence of religion on education changing but 'increasing'.

Religion: Report reveals influence of religion at Scots schools. (file pic)
Religion: Report reveals influence of religion at Scots schools. (file pic) © HEMEDIA / SWNS Group

The influence of religion on education in Scotland has strengthened significantly, according to a new report.

A landmark report funded by the Humanist Society Scotland has found a weakening in the position of religion in Scots law in all areas, except education, where it has been increased in recent years.

The report, carried out by Glasgow University, revealed that the influence of education in Scottish school has changed but "has in many ways been increasing."

The 11 members of the General Teaching Council of Scotland are required to include one member from the Church of Scotland and one from the Roman Catholic Church, the report states.

It also found that denominational schools' "parent councils and combined parent councils" are required to have one representative of the denominational body.

The report reads: "For the most part, in other areas, the general trend has for some time been towards the secularisation of the law.

"The major exception to this is education. Education is an area in which the influence of religion has changed its form, but has in many ways been increasing.

"There is no question that education in the school classroom and the university lecture theatre has been secularising.

"But this is in contrast to changes in curricular and governance structures which have not diminished, but rather strengthened the place of religion."

HSS chief executive Gordon MacRae said: "Many people in Scotland will be surprised by the quirks highlighted in this report, such as; church ministers getting a 50% discount on their council tax, religious communities being exempt from the requirement to pay a minimum wage, and the fact that Scotland never quite got around to repealing the Blasphemy law.

"But for us the most significant theme in the report is a weakening of the position of religion in Scots law in all areas, except education; where it has been significantly strengthened in recent years.

"Humanist Society Scotland supports the move towards an inclusive, secular education system where children and teachers are not discriminated against because of their religion or belief.

"This report will be key catalyst for the ongoing public debate about the role of religion in education. In the coming weeks and months we will be outlining our position for reform of the education system in Scotland."

Professor Callum Brown, from the University of Glasgow, said: "I am delighted to be able to release this comprehensive report into the public domain today.

"This report is a significant contribution to the current public debate about the role of religion in Scottish public life.

"This report will be of particular interest to academics, campaigners and policy-makers in Scotland. We hope that by giving an authoritative and comprehensive examination of the areas into which religion intrudes into Scots law will help to inform the current debate.

"The report outlines examples of religion's place in the law, which is by and large now being eroded by human rights legislation from Europe, Westminster and Holyrood.

"This report is timely, given the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections in May, and we are confident it will inform the policies of future Scottish Governments in the years to come."

Scottish Secular Society chair, Douglas McLellan, said: "It is time that religions in Scotland recognise that there are many people who do not believe and that it is unfair for one section of society to be granted a special place in law. The Scottish Secular Society believes that all people in Scotland should be equal before the eyes of the law and in society as a whole."

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