Church backs religious apartheid
Attempts to keep Catholic and Protestant pupils apart at a new £33 million campus shared by their two old schools were given the full support of the Church yesterday reports the Times.
A dispute erupted last week after it emerged that children from St Davidís Roman Catholic High School and the non-denominational Dalkeith High, which now share a single campus in Midlothian, were being deliberately segregated in the playground and dining areas.
Parents and pupils criticised what they saw as religious apartheid, claiming it pandered to sectarianism and prejudice, but council officials claimed the division was necessary for a short time for the pupilsí safety.
Yesterday the Catholic Church backed the councilís decision to segregate pupils temporarily in the first weeks of the new campus opening.
Michael McGrath, the director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said that the arrangement was ìperfectly sensible to keep youngsters safeî.
However, in a move that appears to fly in the face of a gospel of reconciliation, he surprised the council by then voicing the Churchís total opposition to any merger, now or in the future, of teaching arrangements, opening the door to a possible clash of interests to come.
He said that although the campus was shared, the schools were not in any way integrated or merged, which would result in a ìtotally unacceptableî dilution of the Catholic ethos.
ìThe Catholic philosophy of education can only be fully delivered by teachers who are themselves committed to it."
ìCatholic schooling involves developing Catholic values, religious education, spiritual and moral formation and a commitment to serve the common good, all within a supportive climate that affirms the life and dignity of each person,î he said.
ìSuch a mission could not be adequately delivered through an education which is not faithful to the values of the Gospel."
The arguments employed echoed those of the Christian Institute, who have insisted that church schools should be able to discriminate in favour of employing Christians, claiming that the Christian ethos of a school would otherwise be undermined.
Apparently equating the gospel with Catholicism, Michael McGrath said; "In an integrated school community, where efforts would require to be made to suit the wide range of views held by all members, the Christian message would be diluted. For some people, this might be a desirable outcome. For the Catholic community, it is totally unacceptable.î
The newly built Dalkeith Schools Campus opened at the end of last month and is shared by the two secondary schools and a special-needs school. Modern facilities, including the sports hall, swimming pool, theatre, dining room and libraries, are meant to be shared, while each school has its own separate building with its own classrooms, staff, headteacher and curriculum.
Yesterday, the council said it was shocked by Mr McGrathís remarks about the Churchís opposition to shared teaching.
Donald Mackay, Midlothianís director of education, said: ìThe council is very disappointed by todayís statement. For senior pupils, we anticipate there will be the opportunity in the future where individual classes would be too small to sustain a subject, for the schools to come together to deliver the class. We want the schools to link into and enjoy each otherís company, to learn from each other and support each other.î
He added that mixed dining areas were now slowly being introduced and pupils were able to mix in special communal areas in the playground.
Dalkeith Schools Campus is the first shared campus for secondary schools in Scotland, although there are already a number of joint arrangements in place between Catholic and non-denominational primary schools.