Charity’s how-to guide to opting out of religion at school

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Parents and pupils given advice on the legal rights of those who want to avoid religion at school

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15th August 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A charity is offering parents and pupils advice on their rights to opt out of religious observance in schools.

The Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) has created two new advice booklets after regularly receiving complaints from non-religious parents and pupils concerned about students having to take part in religious worship in schools.

Complaints include those from parents who are “troubled by religious teaching” in schools to pupils calling for non-religious views – such as Humanism – to be included in religious and moral education (RME) classes.

Each booklet, one aimed at parents and the other at pupils, includes advice on how to opt out of religious observance, what resources are available to schools, and how to make a complaint when you feel your rights have not been respected.

Many people across Scotland feel uncomfortable about the religious content of in the school system

Copies of the booklets have been posted to all 32 directors of education in Scotland's local authorities.

Gary McLelland, HSS head of communications and public affairs, says the Scottish Government is continuing to “drag its feet” over the issue.

"Many people across Scotland feel uncomfortable about the religious content of in the school system but are unsure about what their legal rights are,” he said.

“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.”

The HSS has focused heavily on issues surrounding education recently, including launching its Enlighten Up campaign, and committing to train Humanist school visitors to participate in RME classes, group discussions, and debates.

In June it highlighted that the Scottish Government was refusing to allow senior pupils in Scotland to opt out of religious observance, despite being urged by the United Nations and other senior bodies.

McLelland added: “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 that we had a serious discussion about the place of religion in Scottish education.”

Senior pupils in England and Wales, have had a legal right to opt themselves out of religious observance since 2006.