Priorities for Education
Education Principles and Priorities
We believe that the Church of Scotland has a continued role in reflecting Scotland's history and Christian heritage, and building on the critical importance of respect for and understanding of a range of faith and belief systems. In a world where religion is playing an increasing role, whether it be extremists whose interpretation of faith leads to violent terrorism, or inter-faith platforms to tackle global problems such as climate change or human trafficking, the importance for every person to understand and reflect on the role of religion in society has never been greater.
As Scotland becomes a more diverse nation, and as school equips young people for the world of further study and work, the knowledge of and respect for people from different backgrounds is an essential criteria in the modern workplace and in society generally. Ensuring the continued development and delivery of high-quality Religious and Moral Education for the sake of a coherent and integrated society should be a priority for future education policy. To reduce the place of Religious and Moral Education within Scotland's education system would be to remove the framework through which Scotland's young people can express, explore, and embrace Scotland's rich heritage and diversity.
The Church of Scotland recognises humans as spiritual beings, as well as having social, emotional, and physical needs. Opportunities for spiritual development should continue to be recognised. In non-denominational schools this must reflect the character of the school, and be inclusive and appropriate for the whole school community. The role of spiritual development as a key factor in a child's life is specifically recognised in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and this needs to be an important element of Getting It
Right For Every Child. In line with the principles of the Curriculum for Excellence, education should be relevant to the individual learner to meet holistically their academic, emotional, and spiritual needs.
The Church of Scotland will continue to seek to be constructive and work with other churches, as well as other faith and belief groups, to explore the spiritual dimension of life through the six "sensings": sensing mystery, sensing values, sensing meaningfulness, sensing a changed quality in awareness, sensing "otherness", and sensing challenge. This can be delivered through high-quality school assemblies and other areas of the curriculum as appropriate.
The next Parliament will need to address how to eliminate the attainment and achievement gaps for every young person, regardless of their community, family life, or school environment. The Church of Scotland supports early intervention and preventative spending where evidence-based research has shown that learning outcomes in the long term are better, and where there will be eventual overall savings for public expenditure. We urge the political parties not just to think about fiscal policies over one year or an economic cycle, but the difference which could be made over a generation.
In particular, we support:
- Targeted mentoring programmes wherever attainment and achievement gaps appear
- Strengthening Gaelic medium education where there is a need
- Ensured equity of access and opportunity to positive educational experiences for all, particularly those living in poverty
- Consideration of the barriers to achievement especially for young people in remote and rural areas
- Standardised diagnostic testing where it can be demonstrated confidently that national or local league tables will not result
- Universal free meals
And are active in:
- Supporting Early Years learning and parent learning as a means of Preventing the Attainment Gap
- The training, resourcing, and professional development of specialist teachers in Religious and Moral Education
- Enhancing pupil resources, particularly for those with Additional Support needs
We would ask all political parties to offer their commitment to these things and to prioritise the development of the delivery of high quality RME within Scotland.
The Church of Scotland has an historic commitment to education and schooling. It was the first General Assembly in 1560 which called for a school in every parish, to enable every person to be able to read and write. Today, the Church has a statutory duty to support the work of local authority committees that have responsibility for education, through the appointment of Church of Scotland representatives to those committees. To schools that wish it, Church of Scotland ministers and members are often available to serve as chaplains. We have supported the improvement of standards in Religious Observance/Time for Reflection through the Stevenson Prize and have encouraged young peoples' reflection on spirituality and faith through the Moderator's Medal. As core members of the Scottish Joint Committee on Religious and Moral Education, we maintain our belief in the importance and priority of RME as part of a well-rounded and full education.
We are interested in enabling every person to not only to develop skills in literacy and numeracy, but also support the health and well-being of every young person, as a contribution to them becoming confident individuals, successful learners, effective contributors, and responsible citizens.