Schools provision in the 21st century

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February 23, 2018 – The heated debate in West Dunbartonshire over future education provision for children in the Vale of Leven is an illustration of the duplicitous nature of Scottish politics.  And the (mostly) underlying antipathy that still exists between Catholics, Protestants and Humanists, who have organised themselves in a manner which suggests they are a religion in all but name. So, what is going on here?  It will not surprise many people that I am in favour of integrated schools. I don’t apologise for that.  I have advocated in the past that since this is the centenary of the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act, which gives Catholics the right to their own publicly funded schools in perpetuity, there should be a debate on the future of education provision on the floor of the Scottish Parliament; a robust debate taking into account the fact that Irish Catholics for whose benefit this Act was introduced have become fully integrated into Scottish society. I would suggest that, apart from a minority of knuckle draggers and bigots, we are at that stage now.

Catholics are no longer navvies, hewers of wood and drawers of water which they mostly were when Mgr Hugh Canon Kelly, the parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, took the schools campaign to parliament.

They are prominent in the professions, commerce and industry and merit equality at all levels of Scottish society.

Humanists are eating away at the edges of the churches, both Catholic and Protestant.  They are in it for the money much the same way as those churches whose mission statement these days seems to be ‘pray up, pay up and shut up’.

The Catholic Church in particular will brook no criticism from the pews and believers are frequently reminded that the Church is not a democracy.

At least the Church of Scotland has its presbytery meetings and the annual General Assembly where people can stand up and say what they think – and often do.

If we are going to have integrated education then that should come about democratically and not in the deceitful way it appears to be happening now.  The debate should be open, honest and transparent.

St Martin’s in Renton looks set for inevitable closure because the SNP have the powers to close it and power corrupts. It is being done in an underhand way with the council attempting to baffle the public as to what they are actually trying to achieve.

Although not in West Dunbartonshire, St Joseph’s PS in Milngavie will be closed too and Notre Dame High School in Glasgow will be told it cannot continue with its all-girls policy.

The Church will also be told that pupils from within its catchment area will have precedence over Catholic pupils from outwith it who currently use the school as a semi private provision for ‘posh’ upwardly mobile families.

Charity status should be withdrawn from fee paying schools and all parents should have the privilege of sending their children to the school of their choice within the catchment area in which they live.

That would be fair.

If the Catholic Church wants a case study to support my point of view then they only have to look at Milngavie, where currently middle-class Catholics choose not to send their children to the Catholic secondary school provided for them at Summerston in north Glasgow.

That is not because it’s too far away; it’s because they consider their children are better than the children from the schemes. They are snobs.  The campaign group to keep the Catholic primary in Milngavie open includes people who no longer practice their religion and their connections with the Irish Catholic Community, for whom the 1918 Act was designed to benefit, are in the dim and distant past. The SNP’s very successful slogan for a period not so long was ‘It’s time’.

It is indeed time for an honest, open, transparent debate about education provision in Scotland.  It’s time our petty-minded politicians who don’t have the stomach for this lest they lose ‘the Catholic vote’, which is nowadays a myth.

Just today though the Catholic Church in Scotland has issued a public call to Catholics to become involved in politics.  Perhaps they are anticipating a battle about something important to them?  If they are then the public should be told about it, as they should about everything.

The silence of Catholic churchmen and their unelected representative on the Education committee on the St Martin’s issue is deafening.

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