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Oor Jim Confronts Petitions Committee


Further to our article EDUCATE THEM TOGETHER, Primary School teacher Mr. Jim Nixon submitted two petitions to the Scottish Parliaments Public Petitions Committee on Tuesday 26th September 2000.

(a) A call for the Scottish Parliament to create a system of multi-denominational schools which takes into account the concerns of the parents and churches about religious and moral education of our young people, which can at the same time be socially inclusive.

(b) To consider the ending of religious discrimination in the employment of teachers. Mr Nixon's verbal submission is printed in full below:

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES AND SOCIAL INCLUSION

Equal opportunities and social inclusion have been the bye words of the Scottish Parliament since its foundation. Members of the Parliament have gone out of their way, often against media led public opinion, to stress that the New Scotland must be free from discrimination and the genuine equal opportunities should exist for everyone in our society.

Yet the Scottish Parliament is responsible for the continuation of
institutionalised religious discrimination against a majority of Scotland's teachers because of its failure to amend the Education (Scotland) Act, 1980.

This act gives denominational bodies the right to issue Certificates of Approval based solely on adherence to a particular religious denomination, certificates which are a prerequisite for employment by public bodies, namely local authorities.

My current employer, the Glasgow City Council, claims to be an Equal Opportunity Employer and states that all applicants for teaching posts will receive equal treatment irrespective of race, colour, disability, age, sex or religion. Yet in a recent internal newsletter dated 22/8/00 of the 20 posts advertised only 12 were available for teachers not possessing the Certificate of Approval whilst colleagues with a Certificate could apply for all 20. Equal Opportunity clearly does not exist in this situation.

It is in pursuit of this fundamental basis right that I invite you, the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee, to consider my petition on the ending of religious discrimination in the employment of teachers.

As you can see from my submission, I have been a primary school teacher for almost 30 years and throughout that time I have made several attempts to have this matter considered by the responsible authorities. On each of these occasions, the official response has been that in the absence of any legislation relating to religious discrimination, the Education (Scotland) Act 1918 and all subsequent Education Acts legitimise the practice. I believe that by incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into Scots Law from 2nd October 2000, there will be legislation in place that prohibits religious discrimination.

This being the case I call upon the Scottish Parliament to amend Section 21 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 and establish genuine equal opportunity for all of Scotland's primary school teachers.

The Education (Scotland) Act 1918 also appears to give all denominational groups and faiths the right to establish separate school systems and in due course to have these maintained by the local authorities.

Unless amended the Educational Act would give each of these groups equal rights to discriminate in the employment of teachers.

Such a fragmentation would be undesirable and in the interest of the genuine equality and social inclusion policies put forward by The Scottish Parliament, I call upon you to merge the existing school systems in such
a way as to maintain the strengths of each whilst overcoming the anxieties of those who might see this as an attack on their existing rights. Mo Mowlam has recently stated that it was with regret that she did not do more on integrated schooling.

It took the Scottish Parliament over a year to decide that they were unwilling to take any action preferring to maintain institutional religious discrimination rather than tackling this blight on Scottish society.

They passed the matter over to the European Parliamentís Petitions Committee that also rejected the argument put forward.

It would appear that those who currently hold power sanction religious discrimination by local authorities in the employment of staff.

The Scottish Unionist Party strongly reject this position believing in genuine equal opportunity and will be campaigning on this platform in the forthcoming elections.

UPDATE

Moves to open joint campuses are not the answer to this question. Teachers should be judged on their professionalism and not on their religious beliefs if equal opportunities are to mean anything.