BY Ian Dunn | May 31 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1B-MICHAEL-McGRATH-

Official seeks apology from health board over Catholic schools comments

A senior official has condemned as ‘sinister’ and ‘misleading’ claims made by Scotland’s largest health board over Catholic education.

In a submission to a Scottish Parliament inquiry, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde claim that young Catholics are being ‘disadvantaged’ because the health board is not allowed to control sexual health education in Catholic schools.

Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES), said the health board’s claims could not be substantiated and he has written to the Scottish Parliament’s health and culture committee to express his ‘gravest concerns’ at the health board’s seemingly hostile attitude towards Catholic schools.

“To claim that children in Catholic schools are disadvantaged because Catholic schools are failing to impart information is simply misleading to parliamentarians,” Mr McGrath said. “Provision of relationship and sex education in all schools is governed by Education Circular 2/2001. This states unequivocally that the headteacher of a school is responsible for the content and delivery of such programmes. It also recognises that, in Catholic schools, Church authorities have a right to provide guidance on the content of such programmes, ensuring that they are appropriate to the ethos and values of the Catholic school.”

He also said that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had made the submission without any engagement or consultation with Church or local education authorities.

“The lack of communication is quite worrying, quite sinister and has led to them being totally inaccurate,” he said. “We dispute the misleading claims and question the evidence base for them.”

Mr McGrath added that, together with the recent midwives’ case, suggested a worrying trend within Scotland’s largest heath board.

In their controversial evidence to the inquiry into teenage pregnancy, Nicky Coia, the board’s principal health improvement officer, said NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde wanted to know what was being taught in Catholic schools.  “From our own staff that routinely work with schools, we have an understanding that they can be routinely denied access to denominational schools, or can do so only if key issues, especially matters to do with sexual health and relationships, are not discussed with children and young people,” he claimed.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde recently lost a long running court case after it attempted to force to Scottish Catholic midwives to oversee abortions.

As the SCO went to press, it was still unclear whether the health board would decide to appeal against last month’s decision at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that ruled it could not force two Catholic midwives to oversee abortions. A decision on an appeal was required by today.

 

— ian@sconews.co.uk

 

— This story ran in full in the May 31 print edition of the SCO

 

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