Posted: Wed, 04 Dec 2019
The No More Faith Schools campaign is supporting residents to oppose plans which could see a village nondenominational school converted into a Catholic faith school in Inverclyde in western Scotland.
Inverclyde Council is considering a conversion, along with potentially opening a new denominational school and making admissions to existing schools more selective by faith, in an attempt to deal with high demand on school places.
The council has already agreed to expand St Columba's High School, a Catholic secondary school in the town of Gourock.
The NMFS campaign is urging the council to consider inclusive, secular alternatives to deal with the extra demand and is encouraging supporters to help make the case.
The council is considering various combinations of the following options:
- Convert a non-denominational primary school into a Catholic faith school.
- Open a new campus with both a Catholic and non-denominational school in West Inverclyde.
- Introduce religious selection so that only pupils with a certificate of baptism into the Catholic faith will be able to automatically transfer from village schools to Roman Catholic secondary schools.
- Remove non-denominational village schools as feeder schools for denominational secondary schools.
NMFS campaigner Alastair Lichten said: "None of this restricted choice of options on offer would address school shortages in a fair and equitable manner.
"Either opening a new Catholic school or making admissions more dependent on religion would entrench separationism and sectarianism. And there can be no justification for turning an existing nondenominational primary serving its entire community into a Catholic faith school.
"If additional school places are needed, then these should be at inclusive non-denominational schools open to the whole community. The lack of any consideration of this option is perplexing. The council should reconsider."
Mr Lichten encouraged supporters to sign a NMFS campaign petition and respond to a council pre-consultation, which runs until 6 December. A full consultation is expected to be published in due course.
Local parents object to council's plans
David, a local parent with children at the local non-denominational Inverkip Primary School, told the NMFS campaign he was concerned that "more religion seems to be Inverclyde Council's solution for school overcrowding".
He added that the council had recently assured parents that an undersubscribed local non-denominational academy was a good school. He suggested a "PR drive from the council" would therefore solve the issue of oversubscription to the Catholic school.
He said the council's solutions would mean "only those with a baptismal certificate would be able to attend the school higher up the league tables".
"This is unacceptable and it is Inverclyde Council's duty to provide a decent education for everyone, regardless of belief."
Natalie, another local parent, told the campaign the proposal to convert the nondenominational school into a Catholic one would leave her five-year-old daughter facing a long walk to school.
See also: If we want a tolerant Scotland, let's educate children together, by Alastair Lichten.
Note: This story was updated from an original version, published on 19 November, to reflect new developments.