Education has always been a key issue for our members. We campaign for reform of education to end discrimination through religious selection on pupil admissions and teacher employment, and to see a move towards inclusive, secular, education.

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Denominational ‘faith’ schools in Scotland

  • Scotland has 370 state-funded faith schools – 366 Catholic, one Jewish and three Episcopalian (2,199 are non-denominational).
  • Established in law in the Education (Scotland) Act 1918.
  • 21.6% of state-funded school places are in denominational schools.
  • The current Scottish Government policy is supportive of denominational schools.
  • All of Scotland’s state-funded schools are comprehensive.

Employment and pupil selection discrimination

Pupil Selection

  • Under the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, denominational schools may give preference to pupils of the same denomination.
  • Denominational schools do not follow the usual practice of catchment areas.
  • In many areas the closest state-school is a denominational school.
  • In many cases denominational schools are perceived to out-perform non-denominational schools – although the evidence is inconclusive.

Employment Discrimination

  • All teachers at denominational state-funded schools must be approved by the denominational body.
    • “A teacher appointed to any post on the staff of any such school by the education authority. . . shall be required to be approved as regards religious belief and character by representatives of the church or denominational body in whose interest the school has been conducted”.
    • In practice, usually only applied to ‘promoted posts’.
  • A number of high-profile cases have been challenged, including Anne McShane, who in 2011 lost her job due to lack of approval.
    • A similar case also happened with teacher David McNab in 2006.
  • In March 2014, Anthony Finn (former head of GTC Scotland) questioned this requirement:
    • “”If you had to choose between a very good teacher who is not Catholic and what we might best describe as an adequate Catholic teacher, which would you choose?“
  • In October 2014, the European Commission rejected a complaint into this matter.

Religious Observance/Time for Reflection

  • Dating from state ownership in 1872, Religious Observance was originally Christian prayers.
  • The 2005 ‘Religious Observance Review Group’ recommended changes.
  • Reflected in the Scottish Government’s updated guidance in 2011.
    • “community acts which aim to promote the spiritual development of all members of the school’s community and express and celebrate the shared values of the school community”.
    • Ability to opt-out for non-denominational schools only.
  • In Jan 2014, HSS issued a joint statement with Church of Scotland calling on RO to be replaced with an inclusive form of Time for Reflection.
  • November 2014, new guidance on visiting speakers.


  • RME – Religious and Moral Education: RME is a compulsory subject for non-denominational primary and secondary schools (1 hr/week).
  • RMPS – Religious, Moral and Philosophical Studies: A higher level (National 5) course chosen for study in the senior phase of secondary school.
  • RCRE – Roman Catholic Religious Education: Religious Education for denominational RC schools. The curriculum is set by the Bishops’ conference.
  • The ‘Experiences and Outcomes’ of RME are very heavily based on Christianity.
  • Students will select three ‘world religions’ for study, however it is also expected that they will cover ‘other traditions and viewpoints independent of religious belief’.
  • The RME course is split into three sections:
    • Christianity
    • World religions selected for study, and;
    • Developing beliefs and values.
  • RME is taught by mainly by class teachers in primary, and subject specialists in secondary.
  • RMPS is a higher level choice for pupils in the senor phase.
  • Non-religious perspectives are a key component of RMPS.
  • Although humanism is not a component of the course, it is sometimes assessed in National 5 exams and is often taught as part of the course.

RCRE refers to Religious Education in Roman Catholic Schools

In September 2014, HSS surveyed its members on education, the following key themes were identified as being important:

  • Appreciation of the arts
  • Community
  • Equality
  • Human rights
  • Tolerance
  • Reason
  • Respect
  • Citizenship
  • Science and inquiry
  • Fairness
  • Self-reflection
  • Sense of fun
  • Environmental stewardship


TIE is the campaign for inclusive LGBTI+ education to be statutory across schools in Scotland.

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We provide a range of humanist resources free of charge for use by teachers and parents.

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