Religious Observance in St. Andrew’s Primary School

Article 14: Every child has the right to think and believe what they want and to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights.
Governments must respect the rights of parents to give their children information about this right.

As a Roman Catholic Denominational School, religious observance is at the core of everything we do at St Andrew’s RC Primary.

The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 imposes a statutory duty on local authorities to provide “Religious Observance” in Scottish schools.

This is defined in a national R.O. Review Group report published in 2004 as comprising: “community acts which aim to promote the spiritual development of all members of the school’s community and express and celebrate the shared values of the school community”.

In a letter of guidance issued by the Scottish Government in February 2011, it is acknowledged that Catholic schools take a distinctive approach to the provision of Religious Observance:

Scottish Government Ministers welcome the tradition that, in Roman Catholic denominational schools, Catholic Liturgy will largely shape the nature and frequency of religious observance activities in the classroom and in the wider school community. So, at times, children and young people will be invited to participate in, and sometimes to lead, prayer and reflection in classrooms and at assemblies. At other times, to honour particular occasions or feasts, chaplains will lead school communities in the celebration of Mass and other forms of liturgical celebration.

Catholic schools follow the customs and practices of the Catholic Church to ensure a nourishment of the spirituality and faith of all pupils and staff.

Our Catholic tradition is enriched by ancient rites, prayers and devotions which help young people to become aware of, and show reverence to, the sacred presence of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Guided by this tradition, we at St Andrew’s celebrate various seasons and special feast days to honour God, Mary His Mother and the Saints.

What Religious Observance Looks Like At St Andrews:

  • Pupils are invited to pray with their teachers at times in classrooms and assemblies, as well as in liturgical services. Pupils pray as a whole class four times throughout the school day: Morning Prayer, Grace Before Meals, Grace After Meals and Home Time Prayer.
  • All our classrooms feature a Sacred Class Altar. Altar cloths change with respect to the Church calendar, which are made up of seasons that follow the life of Jesus. This sacred space will feature a copy of the Bible, a Crucifix and a statue of Mary. The altar will be decorated with signs and symbols that reflect the changing seasons of the Church Calendar Year i.e., Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost.
  • Regular practice of Prayer is complemented by religious services conducted, sometimes as part of an Assembly, to mark special occasions etc. – e.g., the distribution of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, the seasons of Advent or Lent.
  • To mark special Feast Days and Holy Days of Obligation, Mass is celebrated by the School Priest, Father Michael, with the school community, within St Andrew’s school building. All staff and pupils attend School Mass, where everyone is invited to receive a blessing, however only Catholics who have made their Communion, may receive Communion.
  • Pupils receive two and a half hours of ‘Religious Education in Roman Catholic Schools’ (RERC) –
  • At certain stages, pupils are able to participate in retreats and pilgrimages to places of special significance within the Catholic tradition.
  • P3, P4 and P7 are our Sacramental Classes (P3 – Reconciliation, P4 – Holy Communion, P7 – Confirmation). Preparation for these Sacraments is supported by school, home and parish. In school, children are prepared through RERC lessons in class; those children who are not making their Sacrament will still engage in the preparation lessons, helping to support and encourage their peers who are.

While Religious Education is governed by separate Church guidance, it is complemented by Religious Observance practices and, together, these experiences help pupils to develop their understanding of the Catholic faith, to experience opportunities for spiritual growth and to commit to beliefs, values and actions in a positive response to God’s invitation to faith.

In terms of pupil participation in R.O. Scottish Government guidance makes it clear that it makes an important contribution to pupils’ development and that it promotes the ethos of a school by bringing pupils together and creating a sense of community. However, it also makes clear that parents have the right to withdraw children from participation in religious observance and that this right should always be made known to parents and their wishes respected. The Scottish Government also recognises that:

‘Where a parent chooses a denominational school for their child’s education, they choose to opt in to the school’s ethos and practice which is imbued with religious faith and religious observance. In denominational schools, it is therefore more difficult to extricate a pupil from all experiences which are influenced by the school’s faith character.’

Curriculum for Excellence – Provision of Religious Observance in Schools, Scottish Government, 17 February 2011

*Taken and adapted from West Lothian Council’s Statement