SCOTTISH schools are failing to make parents aware of their rights concerning religious and moral education and religious observance according to new research.
All Scottish schools are required to communicate to parents their right to remove a child from any aspect of religious education and observance if they wish. Schools are also required to offer a suitable alternative activity.
In a poll of 1000 parents with children aged 5 to 16, only 20% reported originally learning of their rights from school. 41% found out through friends, parents or another route that wasn’t their school.
Many parents do not know they can opt out of religious teaching Photo:Trounce
The rest, 39%, were unaware they have the right remove their child from religious and moral education classes and religious observance.
The research, commissioned by the Humanist Society Scotland, also looked at approaches to religious and moral education and observance.
The research found a significant number, 5% of parents, reporting that their child does not participate in any religious and moral education.
When children remain in religious classes and take part in observance, only 15% of parents whose child takes part in religious and moral education gave their own belief as a key reason why they were taking part.
When it came to the approach to teaching religion and observing faith in schools, most parents, 71%, wanted some level of variety in the beliefs covered and18% wanting religion to be removed from schools altogether. A minority, 4% wanted a single religion to be taught.
Parents were also asked what areas they would like to be covered in religious and moral education and observance. Christianity was the most popular with 68% of parents saying it should be included. Scotland’s other significant religions, including Islam (48%), Judaism (46%) and Buddhism (43%), as well as non-religious areas such as philosophy (39%) and atheism/ secular moral education (38%) were selected by over a third of parents.
Clare Marsh, the Humanist Society Scotland’s Education Officer, said, “For many years we have heard parents complaining about the schools not making them aware that they have the right to elect their child opts out but the problem is bigger than we thought. It is unacceptable that nearly two out five parents are unaware of their rights when it comes to the moral and spiritual upbringing of their children.”
“It is not enough to simply include a reference at the back of the school handbook. Schools should do more to let people know and provide a real and suitable alternative for parents and children when they don’t want to be part of religious teaching or observance. This is becoming more important as the society takes increasingly secular views”
“We are asking the government and local authorities to ensure that people are aware of the rights and that there is a balance in religious and moral education to reflect a modern inclusive Scotland. Children should hear about religion but this should sit alongside other belief and non-belief approaches.”
The results of the survey have been released ahead of Scotland’s first conference examining the balance between secular and religious teaching and observance in Scottish schools.
“Affording Parity of Esteem: redressing the balance in moral, philosophical and religious education”, takes place in Edinburgh on Wednesday May 2, 2012.
The research can be downloaded from www.humanist-scotland.co.uk/content/education