CATHOLIC schools in Scotland should be a place “for children to become friends with Jesus”, according to the church’s new head of religious education.
Barbara Coupar, the new head of the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES), claimed there was no “political will” to question the value of the 366 Catholic schools in Scotland.
Ms Coupar, who took over the job with the Scottish Catholic Church last month, said the place of the schools was secure and there was no need to be “defensive”.
But her comments were criticised by the Humanist Society, who claimed they were evidence of the ongoing discrimination at work in faith schools.
In an interview with an education magazine, Ms Coupar said: “I’m certainly getting the impression that there’s no political will among the mainstream to question the worth of Catholic schools – everybody sees the value of them.
“I would say the place of Catholic schools is secure.
“We’re at a point in our history where I don’t think we need to be defensive.”
She added: “I’m going to use the ‘Jesus’ word here.“Catholic schools should be centred on an opportunity for children to become friends with Jesus.”
Ms Coupar stressed that this should not exclude pupils of other faiths or none.
Schools, she said, should “extend an invitation to faith, even if they’re not at that point in their life at the moment”.
Her remarks come one year after government figures revealed that 43% of people are against denominational schools, with only 25% in favour.
30% of the country also believe the existence of Catholic schools contributes to sectarianism.
Gary McLelland, spokesman for the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), said: “Schools should be a place of learning and discovery for young people, not a recruiting tool for particular denominations.
“With well over two-thirds of young people in Scotland having no religious beliefs, and a majority of adults too, it will strike many as odd that the state education system runs schools in order to promote the interests of a particular religious denomination.
“Denominational schools in Scotland lobbied successfully for legal exemptions from equality law in order that they could discriminate against non-religious staff and pupils.
“We want all state-funded schools in Scotland to welcome staff and pupils regardless of their religion or belief, and to teach children about the broad range of religious and non-religious philosophy, something which certainly isn’t the case at the moment.”