Update on HSS / Church of Scotland Agreement

On Friday the HSS & the Church of Scotland released a joint statement asking that the Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament ask the Scottish Government to make a change to the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. This change was to remove the term Religious Observance and insert Time for Reflection.

This joint statement went on to say:

“The change to a more equal and inclusive ‘time for reflection’ would echo the current practice of the Scottish Parliament, and bring legislation into line with modern views. It will also remove the current focus on ‘religion’, with which many non-religious people struggle.”

It is clear that the moving from Religious Observance to Time for Reflection was more than mere name change. The statement included the aspiration to develop new approaches and make Time for Reflection a truly inclusive activity and not a act of religious worship. In fact, the Church of Scotland’s submission to the Petitions Committee in October 2013 stated that “Time for Reflection is not, and should never be confessional in nature. It not worship or ‘state sponsored’ prayers either.”

We are therefore surprised by a statement on the Church of Scotland website that appears to refute the joint statement and makes clear that “The nature of religious observance will not change, but the new name will better reflect what has been the case since 2005.”

This is not what the HSS agreed to and seems to also differ from their previously stated position. A mere name change will not address the concerns of many parents, nor meet the policy aspirations of the HSS. The guidance that has been in place since 2005 has been shown to be vulnerable to misinterpretation (or even ignored) by Head Teachers. For any change to ‘Time for Reflection” to be meaningful there would have to be changes to the current guidance in terms of content and scrutiny of practice by Education Scotland.

When the Church of Scotland submits its evidence on PE01487 to the Petitions Committee, we hope that it endorses its original statement agreed with us on Friday.

 

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