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Religion and education in Scotland

The 1872 Education Act made the state responsible for education in Scotland, with the Church of Scotland transferring control over its schools. Catholic schools became part of the state system under the 1918 Education Act, so that in effect there is currently a system of state supported denominational schools. There are more than 400 Catholic schools in the public sector, as well as a number of schools established by the Scottish Episcopal Church and one Jewish primary school.

The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 requires education authorities and schools to provide both religious education and religious observance. The circular on religious observance from the Scottish Executive in 2005 stated that ‘In recognition of Scotland’s Christian heritage, schools are encouraged to use the rich resources of this tradition when planning religious observance’ – which seems a tentative endorsement of Christian worship rather than a prescription to organise it – and specified only that ‘every school should provide opportunities for religious observance at least six times in a school year’. Parents may withdraw their children, and in these cases ‘schools should make suitable arrangements for the child to participate in a worthwhile alternative activity. In no circumstances should a child be disadvantaged as a result of withdrawing from religious observance.’

D 11 September 2012    ADavid Voas

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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