Back in September 2013 TES carried an article which reported on an Edinburgh Secular Society (ESS) report decrying the influence of chapliancy posts in schools:
ESS conducted countrywide research with help from the National Secular Society, and said that large chaplaincy teams – rather than individual chaplains – were becoming more common in schools, and claimed that these teams include members with “more fundamentalist views”, such as creationism and faith healing.
The group, which scrutinised religious groups’ websites and other publicly available information, said that chaplaincy teams regularly had six to eight members in both primary and secondary schools. One secondary – Larbert High, in Falkirk – had 10 members on its chaplaincy team.
The report carried responses from the Church of Scotand and Scripture Union Scotland …. The Rev Sandy Fraser, convener of the Church of Scotland’s education committee, hit back at the criticism. “The Church of Scotland is increasingly disappointed in the nature of these comments by the Edinburgh Secular Society,” he said. “It is extremely inaccurate to suggest chaplains inveigle their way into schools. Chaplains and other community figures are in schools by invitation of the headteacher to assist in whatever way the headteacher feels is helpful to the school. Chaplains are very clear that their job is not to impose their views on the school community.”
A Scripture Union Scotland spokeswoman said that her organisation agreed with ESS that “pupils have a right to hear about different faith perspectives, and that proselytising within a school context is wholly inappropriate”. She stressed that Scripture Union Scotland work took place at the invitation of schools, across all denominations, and was supported by Scottish government guidance.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said that it was “for a headteacher to decide, in conjunction with the local authority and wishes of parents, what links a school should have with its local faith communities”.
This week TES carried a very different article abour chaplaincy in schools. The number of school and college chaplains has more than doubled in the past decade, with support for stressed teachers becoming an important part of their role. Church of England figures show that the number of school chaplains has grown from 200 to more than 400 in the past 10 years.
The role of chaplain “varies hugely, from comforting students in the aftermath of a tragedy or helping to celebrate their successes to quietly listening to a tutor who is facing redundancy or exploring what it means to believe in God at all”, according to the Reverend Garry Neave, the CofE’s lead on chaplaincy.
In an article for TES, he writes that a chaplain “may be the one person the principal can unburden themself to.”
The Reverend John Seymour, chaplain of Twyford CofE High School in Acton, West London, said that he made a point of speaking to teachers who seem troubled.
“You can see on their faces when they’re stressed, whether it’s about work or their personal life,” he said. “I go into their classroom at a quiet time and say, ‘How are you at the moment?’
“I think the fact that they can articulate what’s going on helps them to make decisions about what they want to do, rather than feeling trapped by it.”
The full article in TES on 3rd April is well worth a read.