BY Peter Diamond | August 23 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Church network which seeks to harness parent power is relaunched amid battle for voting rights

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow Archdiocese, president of SCES, said: “The Parents’ Network is directly related to the responsibility of Catholic parents to be the first teachers of their children."

The Church is appealing for parents to join a new network that will aim to give families a greater voice and safeguard the future of Catholic education.

The Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES) will host a national gathering on September 21 as it seeks to bolster the voice of Catholic parents in Scottish education.

The launch comes amid a crucial battle over the future of Catholic schools.

This week, after the SCO went to press, Edinburgh City Council voted on whether or not to follow Perth and Kinross in stripping the Catholic Church of voting rights on education committees.

Government consultations

Barbara Coupar, director of SCES, believes the network will help mobilise parents who want to learn more about educating their children in the Catholic Faith, as parents are ‘primary educators,’ adding that the Scottish Government is increasingly wanting to listen to the voice of parents when holding consultations.

Mrs Coupar said: “There has been an emphasis by the Scottish Government in recent years regarding parents being the primary educators of their children and they are consulting parents’ forums when publishing education legislation.

“For us, the Church is explicit in stating that parents are the first educators of their children. Therefore, we want to do all we can to ensure that the voice of parents who choose to send their children to Catholic schools is heard on important issues facing education and that is why we are relaunching the network of parents who chose to send their children to our schools.”

A SCES parents network previously existed as an independent working group which was established 10 years ago.

Direct links

Since then the group has provided SCES with feedback and support on resources for classrooms such as God’s Loving Plan, but the re-launch hopes to increase the numbers involved.

Mrs Coupar added: “Every school has a parent council and it is hoped that through the SCES network we would have direct links with at least one rep at a local cluster, diocesan and national levels.

“Our aim is to create a bigger voice for parents to come together in clusters, forums and nationally to discuss issues and raise any concerns.

“For us, we want to use the structures of the Church to mobilise our own network that can give parents a say on what is happening in their schools, parishes and diocese.

“We want the network to go two ways that allows parents involved in parent councils to get on with things at a local level but enable them to bring things to the attention of SCES.”

Archbishop backing

The bishop president of SCES has also backed the network ‘which provides a potentially effective channel for [parents] to be more engaged with education and formation.’

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow Archdiocese, president of SCES, said: “The SCES Parents’ Network initiative is approved and supported by the Bishops’ Conference as one element of the extensive service that SCES provides to Catholic schools in Scotland.

“The Parents’ Network is directly related to the responsibility of Catholic parents to be the first teachers of their children.

“To be part of a Parents’ Network is a way of carrying out the promises Catholic parents make when they present their children for baptism and it provides a potentially effective channel for them to be more engaged with the education and formation their children receive at their Catholic school.”

A ‘distinctive voice’

The archbishop added: “The SCES Parents’ Networks at both national and diocesan levels will also be an important avenue for the distinctive voice of Catholic parents to be heard by government and by their local authority and education service.”

Mrs Coupar added: “In order to evangelise we need our structures to be connected more and SCES along with the parent network can be another link between schools parishes and dioceses.

“We already support them with helping prepare for the Sacraments for example, but we also support them when they are facing tough questions to do with things like shared campuses.

“If we can be a support to them that will be our aim and to provide a listening ear as much as acting one.”

Key vote

On Thursday August 22, councillors voted at Edinburgh City Chambers on the voting rights of Church representatives.

Ahead of the vote, Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh Archdiocese had issued letters to all parishes calling on Catholics to lobby councillors to retain voting rights.

As the SCO went to press, the 17 strong SNP group on the council were undecided on how they would vote. The 17 Conservative councillors will vote against the measure.

On Tuesday August 20, Anthony Horan, director of Catholic Parliamentary Office, told BBC Radio Scotland that the Church’s full role on education committees is ‘a service, principally to the Catholic community and all who choose Catholic schools for their children.’

Protected

“I think it’s right and appropriate that this community of people has a representative voice and they are able to vote on matters which impact on Catholic schools.”

Mr Horan added: “There was an historic agreement in 1918—in return for the transfer of Catholic schools, including the land and buildings to the state education system, the Catholic community was assured by statute the specific characteristics of the Catholic school would be protected.

“And a part of that is the religious education representatives on committees. Those specific aspects of Catholic education should be protected.”

 

For the latest update on the Edinburgh City Council vote on Catholic representative voting rights please visit: http://www.sconews.co.uk/?p=59209

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