BY Daniel Harkins | June 8 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

2-STURGEON

First Minister questioned on all-girls’ school campaign and college Mass outrage

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was grilled on a number of pressing issues for the Catholic community of Scotland as she gave the annual Cardinal Winning Lecture on Saturday June 2.

The First Minister was questioned on an ongoing campaign to make Notre Dame High School in GlTasgow co-educational, the issue of religious representatives on education boards, and a controversy over the cancelling of a planned Mass at the City of Glasgow College.

Marilena Moriconi, a parent of children at Notre Dame Primary and a teacher at a Catholic school, asked the First Minister to urge her SNP colleagues on Glasgow City Council to make the secondary school co-educational.

Notre Dame High is the only all-girls’ state school in the country. Last month, campaigners said they were dismayed that a council consultation on catchment areas would not consider the issues around the school.

Nicola Sturgeon told Mrs Moriconi that she was aware of the issue and that her SNP colleagues on the council would give it proper consideration, but that as First Minister it wasn’t her place to ‘dictate’ the outcome of the debate. Mrs Moriconi said she was disappointed with the First Minister’s response.

“The situation is ludicrous,” she said. “The [speech] was all about inclusion but Catholic boys can’t go to their local Catholic school.”

She said children were being lost to Catholic education, as parents were sending their children to nearby non-denominational schools rather than Notre Dame or further away Catholic schools. Mrs Moriconi was herself educated at Notre Dame High, and while she says it gave her a good academic education, it did not prepare her for the world and ‘gives a skewered perception’ of things. “It breaks my heart that my daughter can’t get the education she wants,” she added. Mrs Moriconi later spoke with education minister John Swinney, who was at the lecture, and she said he ‘recognised parents’ need for greater certainty and clarity over the process and timing’ of a consultation on the issue.

The First Minister was also asked about a recent controversy over the cancellation of a Catholic Mass at the City of Glasgow College. The college’s chaplain had arranged for the Ascension Thursday Mass, but it was abruptly cancelled after the intervention of the principal Paul Little.

The First Minister said she was happy to take the point away and ‘see if we can engender discussion’ as ‘chaplaincy is an important part of life of the university.’

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow, before giving the vote of thanks, said the archdiocese was in the process of discussing with the university ‘how these arrangements can be amplified.’

“We are moving in the right direction,” he added.

A former headteacher asked the First Minister if education reforms would endanger the right for education representatives to sit on local authority bodies. “Church representatives will continue to be important and we will respect that,” Mrs Sturgeon said.

She also said her answer was ‘yes’ when asked by the former director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, Michael McGrath, if the government was committed to ensuring Catholic schools pass on the Faith.

 

 

 

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