Tag Archives: Religious Education

Gaelic v Catholic education

30 Jan

Twice in the last two weeks I’ve come across the same issue surrounding the Glasgow Gaelic School and it’s an issue that has nothing to do with the pros and cons of immersion, whether Gaelic is useful or not, and whether the school is well enough equipped to deal with children with additional support needs.  The issue that has cropped up recently has been about religion – specifically, that the Gaelic school isn’t a Catholic school.

I’m proudly Church of Scotland (though I don’t profess to be an expert) so I suppose considering denominational schools has never been high on my list of priorities.  To me, a good school is one which covers a broad curriculum, covering religious and moral education as a part of that, using a wide variety of engaging strategies.  Being exposed to the culture, ethics and religious teachings of a variety of cultures – especially when we live in a multicultural society – is, to me, a good thing.  But then, I have grown up in non-denominational schools so it’s what I know.  Whilst I may have chosen to send my children to a school where the language of the classroom won’t be English as it was for me, the content of the curriculum is broadly speaking the same (there are small curricular differences in every school) so I will still have a shared experience with my children.  But why should I assume that just because I prefer a non-denominational education that every other parent will feel the same?

So how do the families I have spoken with this week feel?

One is a family with two children, both slightly younger than mine.  The mother and I are friends, and so she has followed my research and experiences with interest.  When she raised the option of Gaelic medium education with her family they were very positive about it, but the first question – as she knew it would be – was, “but what about their religious education?”  And this is a large part of her reserves about going down this route.  She knows that she can take her children to church and still provide that religious instruction for them, but her experiences of school will be different, the preparation for their first communion in primary four will be different (and I’m sure there are many other aspects that she must consider in relation to this too, these were simply the first things she mentioned to me).  Choosing to send her children there has added implications for her, if you like.

Other families have found that the decision to go for GME hasn’t been an easy one, though I suppose it rarely is.  When local schools are good, it can be hard to break from “the norm” especially when the question of religious education complicates matters. The lack of Catholic teaching at the Gaelic school becomes a consideration but, as several mothers said to me, the responsibility of their child’s religious education is their own, and one pointed out that lately, in her experience, the children do not go through their first communion as a class but at their local parish church so perhaps there isn’t the same “need” to send your child to a Catholic school.

The debate surrounding faith schools is one that can bring with it strong feelings, and I’m not looking to get bogged down in complex arguments, but I do wonder how other parents have handled this issue and whether there are parents out there who would have chosen GME but for the lack of Catholic instruction in the school.

Do we dare to dream that GME will one day be so mainstream that the powers that be would even consider opening a Catholic Gaelic school – not because I feel we need denominational education (because to be honest, I don’t) but because it means that there is a significant, accepted demand for Gaelic?

We don’t know what the future holds and in the meantime each family must make their own decision.  For me, I’m glad we have started down this path and I look forward to all the challenges, opportunities and adventures to come.

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