Friday, 26 August 2016

In defence of Scotland's Catholic schools

The Scottish Catholic education system is again under attack. This is something I drafted a while back.
Civil Rights and the Education (Scotland) Act 1918

The Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia, volume 3, para. 1660, citing the Perverts to Papacy Act 1609 (RPS, 1609/4/16) and the Mass Act 1661, (RPS, 1661/1/56).

“Likewise his majesty, considering how dangerous it is that children are educated by persons popishly affected, do therefore, conforming to former acts of parliament, appoint that children under popish parents, tutors or curators shall be taken from them and committed to the education of some well-affected and religious friend, at the sight and by order of his majesty’s privy council”

It has been suggested that since the European Convention on Human Rights has now become a part of Scottish Law, then the European Court of Human Rights might be used as a forum within which to challenge the way in which Catholic education is provided in Scotland. So it might be thought sensible to ask which provisions of the Human Rights Convention could be used to mount a successful challenge to the very existence of Catholic schools in Scotland under the Education (Scotland) Act 1918 disposition. Happily, the answer is none.

Those parts of the Convention that might arguably be used by opponents of Catholic education are given below, but it should be readily obvious that they provide a much stronger basis for a defence of our Catholic schools. It should also be noted that the various parts are listed in order, but in accordance with the principle that last shall be first the very last part of the Convention quoted is the most important in the context of defending the provision of Catholic education.

European Convention on Human Rights

Section 1

Article 8:
(1) Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

(2) There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 9:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

(2) Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief shall be subject only to the limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Article 12:
Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to form a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.

Article 13:
Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.

Article 14:
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any grounds such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, birth or other status.

Article 15:
In time of war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law.

The Substantive Protocols to the Convention

1. Protocol No.1, 20 March 1952
Article (1):
Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provision shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.

Article (2):

No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.

Attacks on Catholic Schools

It was reported some time ago that Cameron Fyfe of Ross Harper & Murphy (note: happily, they ceased trading in April 2012; HMcL) intended to proceed with an action at the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of at least one family based on the second article of the First Protocol. In the various reports on the matter reference was made only to the first sentence thereof: “No person shall be denied the right to education.”

Sadly, it was clear at the time of the initial reports that the only persons denying the child concerned a proper education were his own parents (note: as far as I am aware, nothing more was subsequently heard about this case; HMcL). However, my concern here is the education of Catholic children and of those children of non-Catholic parents wishing to avail themselves of the benefits of a Catholic education for their offspring.

In pursuance of its obligations to Catholic parents under this Article, the most efficient way that the Scottish Executive can ensure that it continues in conformity with its duty is for it to ensure that it continues to provide separate Catholic schools under the terms of the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act. Under the terms of the Act the Scottish Catholic Church ceded school property to the State in perpetuity on the understanding that the State would in perpetuity provide separate Catholic schooling for the Catholic children of Scotland.

It must be remembered that the State could have taken over the running of the Catholic schools without the agreement of the Church in 1918 as the country was at war and in great peril. Indeed, Section 1 Articles 8 and 13 cited above would permit them to do so even today.

The Education (Scotland) Act 1918

How and why came it to be that we have our Catholic schools here in Scotland? Contrary to what some might believe, it is clear that it had nothing to do with any desire on the part of the British State to preserve the Catholic Faith. And Catholics were little involved on the floor of the House at Westminster during the debates which led eventually to the passing of the Education (Scotland) Act 1918. Indeed, no Scottish Catholic Member of Parliament was involved (as there wasn't one) and just one Catholic Irish Nationalist MP contributed to the Parliamentary proceedings.

On August 9, 1916, as the Great War in Europe raged on, during the 13th day of the Debate on the Supply in the House of Commons, Mr James Myles Hogge first raised the possibility of a wide-ranging review of the Scottish Education system. A non-Coalition Liberal, the Member for East Edinburgh was an Assistant Minister of the United Free Church in College Street, Edinburgh.

Also by profession a journalist and both a social investigator and researcher, Mr Hogge asserted in his opening remarks that “the time has arrived, and is in fact overdue, when another Royal Commission ought to make an investigation into the whole system of Scottish education.”

He went on to aver that “after the War we shall be face to face with a situation which will require a different kind of education from that which has been given before, and I am sure my Rt hon Friend (the Secretary for Scotland) would be doing a service to British education if he did something in this direction.”

Later during that day’s debate, the then Secretary for Scotland, the Rt hon Harold John Tennant (Coalition Liberal, Berwickshire) told the House that Her Majesty’s Government recognised that “these questions of education are of paramount importance”. They intended, therefore, to set up an inquiry but it was to be one into education throughout the whole of the United Kingdom and not just within Scotland.

This latter point was to become a major bone of contention in the succeeding weeks and months with, amongst others, Mr Alexander MacCallum Scott (Liberal, Glasgow Bridgeton; an Advocate educated at Polmont Public School, Falkirk High School and Glasgow University) taking the matter up at Questions with Mr Tennant, August 16 and with Mr HH Asquith, the Prime Minister, August 21.

When questioning the latter, MacCallum Scott highlighted what few today seem to realise, that the need for a new system of education was something which was in the best strategic interests of the country and not necessarily the best interests of the Catholic Church. (Indeed, nowhere in the Education (Scotland) Act 1918 is the Church mentioned.) He asked Asquith to “take steps to secure that a comprehensive inquiry into the existing educational provision in Scotland from primary schools to the universities, with special reference to the experience gained during the War, should be conducted by people versed in the Scottish education system.”

After Asquith had assured MacCallum Scott that he was indeed aware of the differences between the education system in Scotland and that in England he added that he was, however, also aware that there were “many educational problems common to the two countries” and had therefore concluded that they should be examined together.

Sir Henry Craik (Conservative, Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities) then became involved. He asked the PM to bear in mind that inquiries were “often most efficacious” if they were left up to the discretion of those conducting them to decide how precisely they were to go about their task. Sir Henry was a son of a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Very Rev James Craik DD. He had been educated at the High School of Glasgow, Glasgow University and Balliol College, Oxford. He was a former Examiner (from 1870), Senior Examiner (from 1878) and Secretary (1885-1904) of the Scottish Education Department and was to be closely involved in the long and careful discussions and inquiries which would eventually lead to the passing of the 1918 Act. Indeed, in that year of its passing Sir Henry would be appointed a Privy Counsellor.

A year later, on August 8, 1917, the Rt hon Robert Munro (Scottish Liberal, Wick Burghs), who had by then taken over as Secretary for Scotland, told the House that one of the “many lessons that the War has taught us is, I think, the vital importance of education to the nation.” Moreover, of “vital importance” to the quality of that education was the quality of the teacher. He went on: “You want to attract into the teaching profession the very best men whom you can get, and you cannot do that unless you offer them more than a miserable pittance for their services. Even if you get suitable men, you cannot get the best out of them unless they are properly paid. For no man can give of his best who is a constant prey to financial anxiety, and accordingly the educational work of the teacher, I take it, will be in inverse ratio to the domestic worry which he experiences.”

Nowhere were those financial anxieties and the consequent domestic worries greater than in the case of the teachers of Scotland’s voluntary, almost exclusively Catholic, schools sector.

It was only after Mssrs Munro, Tennant, Watson, Galland, Morton and Holmes, Colonel Stirling and Sirs H Craik and Edward Parrott had contributed to the debate that John Pius Boland (Irish Parliamentary Party, South Kerry) rose to speak. He conceded that it was “almost presumptuous” for an Irish Member to intervene, but pointed out that it was well known that he had “always taken a deep interest in voluntary schools in Scotland” particularly since the passing of the 1908 Scottish Education Bill, when he had sat on the Grand Committee during its various stages.

Boland expressed “a wee bit of disappointment” that the Secretary for Scotland had not given “rather more hope” in regards to the way the voluntary schools in Scotland were to be assisted in the matter of the payment of their teachers. Figures which had recently been “extracted” from the Secretary showed that these teachers were “monstrously underpaid”.

Some of the figures made available enabled a comparison to be readily made.

                                Glasgow Catholic school      Glasgow Board school
                                             £                                    £
Headmaster                        181                                366
Male assistant          N/A but Scottish ave 94          154. 12s
Female assistant       N/A but Scottish ave 75          106

£4.4s.8d was spent on each child in a Govan Board school and £3.16s in a Glasgow one. In the case of a Catholic child in his voluntary school only £1.14s.5d was spent, NOT ONE PENNY of which came out of the Rates which nonetheless their parents had still to pay in full.

Mr Boland observed that the result for the education of Catholic children was “disastrous”. He pointed out that the Catholic Church in Scotland had to raise some £60,000 per annum “not merely to supplement the wretched salaries of the teachers, but to provide for the building and equipment of the schools”. And these Catholic voluntary schools were grossly overcrowded. Whereas 32 Govan Board Schools catered to 1,022 scholars, 20 Glasgow Catholic schools had to cater for 1,423.

Moreover, there were also nutritional differences affecting the development of Catholic children. When, in 1914, Dr Ernest Roberts, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Glasgow School Board had issued his Annual Report for the year ended 13 June of that year it was revealed that girls aged 11 and 12 in Catholic schools weighed on average 5 lbs less than Protestant girls in the Board schools. Girls aged 9 in Catholic schools had an average height of 3ft 10ins, their Protestant equivalent 4ft 0ins.

Later, in his summing up in that portion of the debate, Mr Munro first publicly held out to the Catholic Church the prospect of their schools coming under the umbrella of local authority control in what he hoped they might like to consider as favourable terms. This was to be done because it was in the country’s strategic interests AND NOT out of any ecumenical sentiment.

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