Event Report – Religious Observance in Schools: maximising its potential

A workshop on Religious Observance in School was held on the 13th March in Ayr.

Called “Religious Observance in Schools: maximising its potential”, the workshop was organised by Mackay Hannah. It covered discussions about the what Religious Observance (RO) looks like, what is meant by RO and what RO is trying to achieve.

Clare Marsh, Education Officer for the Humanist Society Scotland was in attendance. Here are her observations on the day…

We were told that those with no faith made up the second largest proportion of the Scottish population – 26% after the Church of Scotland which was the largest.

All schools must provide six R.O. events per year in addition to special festivals e.g Christmas and Easter and all schools must teach R.M.E which should include reference to the main religions and the secular life stance.

“Reference was made to a position paper (prepared last year, jointly by Ewan Aitken, one of the presenters, and Graeme Nixon, who had addressed the HSS in Glasgow on the previous evening) to support schools in developing their understanding of the complementary but distinct concepts of personal search in R.O and RME in the Curriculum for excellence era. Here are 2 choice quotes…

“…. RME is a curricular area and R.O. is a whole school activity. Unfortunately, that distinction and all that should go with it in terms of leadership and resources is often lost or blurred……..

……Put in very simple terms RME begins in the intellectual and RO in the experiential though both have elements of the other and feed each other”

The organisers presented some good teaching materials, based on shared values which humanists would find to be very relevant but they did admit that schools did not all appreciate that they should no longer use the confessional approach and although most did mention other religions very few devoted much time to the secular life stance.

Many assemblies consisted of a Church of Scotland minister holding a church service and asking all children to pray

At the Q&A session which followed the head teacher of a large secondary school and a depute head of a primary school took the organisers to task for the lack of observance of the secular life style in R.O. inmany schools

“Why is it”, said the head teacher, “that ministers of religion find it so difficult to communicate with the children in my school? Despite all the prior discussion I have with them they almost immediately begin to evangelise. Yet when a lovely lady called Erica from the Humanist Society came to talk to them they all crowded around her at the end and one of them even gave her a big hug”.

I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming.



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