At the Humanist Society we regularly receive complaints from parents and pupils who are troubled by religious teaching in their schools. Many are unsure of their legal rights, and are unaware of the options open to them in relation to the religious content of education.
For these reasons we focused heavily on issues surrounding education, including launching our Enlighten Up campaign, and committing to train Humanist School Visitors to participate in RME classes, group discussions, and debates.
HSS are now very pleased to unveil two new resources A Guide for Non-Religious Parents, and A Guide for Non-Religious Young People, to help older pupils, parents and carers to better understand their rights within education.
Each book includes advice on how to opt out of religious observance, what resources are available to schools, how to make a complaint when you feel your rights have not been respected, and much more. It is our hope that this will prove a helpful tool in empowering the two thirds of non-religious young people in Scotland to have a greater say over their own education, and that no one is made to feel excluded or different just because they don’t follow a religion.
In June HSS highlighted that the Scottish Government’s refusal to allow senior pupils in Scotland to opt out of religious observance, despite urging by the UN and other senior bodies.
HSS Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Gary McLelland, said:
“Many people across Scotland feel uncomfortable about the religious content of in the school system but are unsure about what their legal rights are. Every week we hear from parents asking for advice about opting their child out of religious observance, or pupils wanting to include non-religious views – such as Humanism – in their own RME classes, but are not sure how to do it.
“We know from our own research that not all parents are aware of their right to withdraw from religious observance. Schools really do have a responsibility to let parents and carers know what their legal rights are.
“That’s why we’ve created these booklets. We want to give parents and young people a guide to their legal rights here in Scotland. It is our ultimate aim to see religious observance scrapped and replaced with a more inclusive activity, such as philosophy which children, but until then we will campaign to make sure that all parents and young people are aware of their rights.
“In June we highlighted the fact that the Scottish Government continues to drag its feet over children’s rights by not allowing senior pupils to opt out of religious observance – it really is time the we had a serious discussion about the place of religion in Scottish education.”
Notes: For further information or comment please contact Gary McLelland on email@example.com or 07813060713.
The booklets can be viewed and downloaded for free at: http://enlightenup.scot/advice/
HSS-commissioned research: In 2011 HSS commissioned research from Progressive/YouGov which highlighted a flaw in the 2011 census question. When asked ‘What religion are you’, the census question, 58% answered positively. However, when asked the less leading question ‘Are you religious’, 56% answered No. Full details: https://www.humanism.scot/what-we-do/research/hss-independent-research-on-religion-and-belief-in-scotland-2011/
In 2012 HSS commissioned research from YouGov to identify if parents were aware of their parental right to opt-out of Religious and Moral Education and Religious Observance. The results found that four out five parents (80%) were either ignorant of their rights or originally found out through a source other than school. Worryingly, 39%, over a third of parents were not aware of their right at all. Further information at: https://www.humanism.scot/what-we-do/research/religion-and-education-2012/
In March 7 2016 HSS released a detailed exposé of unelected religious representatives on local eduction committees: More information at: http://enlightenup.scot/new-enlightenup-campaign-expose-details-of-unelected-religious-representatives/
External research: 70.8% of 14-17 years have no religion (Survey of young Scots, 2013, http://aqmen.ac.uk/referendum/youngpeople)
In August 2015 the Scottish Households Survey found that nearly one-in-two households in Scotland are non-religious: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/08/3720
About Enlighten Up: The Enlighten Up campaign is an initiative of Humanist Society Scotland which aims to promote a fair and inclusive education system where pupils and teachers are not discriminated against because of their religion or belief. More info at: http://enlightenup.scot/
Humanist Society Scotland seeks to represent the views of people in Scotland who wish to lead ethical and fulfilling lives guided by reason, empathy and compassion. We provide a range of non-religious ceremonies and campaign for a secular state. HSS has over 14,000 members across Scotland.