BY DAN FRANK
ATEACHER has told an employment tribunal that the Catholic school where he worked religiously discriminated against him.
David McNab, a mathematics teacher at St Paul’s Roman Catholic High School in Pollok, Glasgow, claimed that he was not considered for the post of head of pastoral care because he is an atheist. He has taken the city council before an employment tribunal under a law banning discrimination on grounds of religious belief. Sectarian schools in Scotland are run by local government.
Mr McNab, 53, told the tribunal that the school made him feel like a “second-class citizen”. He said the Scottish Church routinely vetoed the appointment of divorced and remarried Catholic teachers, and that Catholic teachers were banned from “reserved posts” – those to do with religious education and pastoral care – if they sent their own children to non-religious schools.
Mr McNab would have received a pay rise of about £8,000 a year if promoted.
He said that he had applied for promoted posts on numerous occasions and that he told Robert O’Donnell, the headmaster, that he intended to apply when a principal pastoral care teaching position became available in September 2004. The notice advertising the job did not mention Catholic accreditation, he said.
But he was told not to bother to apply. “Mr O’Donnell told me he would not interview me as I was non-Catholic,” claimed Mr McNab. “He told me, and it rather insulted me, that it was a very important job and it had to be filled quickly. My feelings had been very badly hurt. I was made to feel like a second-class citizen.” Mr McNab claimed that only about 10 per cent of the children at the school came from actively Catholic homes. He also said that, being pro-life and “a very moral person”, he foresaw no difficulties in promoting the school’s ethos.
The council denied the charge of discrimination, arguing that Catholicism was a “genuine occupational requirement” for some positions. Teachers responsible for moral formation or pastoral care are expected to satisfy the Church of their Catholic “religious belief and character”. This condition does not apply to “non-reserved” posts.
In England and Wales, however, there is an acute shortage of RE teachers, even though it is already one of the subjects that attracts a £6,000 “golden handshake”, along with mathematics, science and modern languages. In response the Government has actively started to try to recruit atheists. As part of a £3 million initiative the Government sent thousands of letters to humanities graduates that read: “There is no requirement what
soever for RE teachers to practise a faith themselves.” As less and less of the RE syllabus is
devoted to Christianity the need for biblically literate teachers has plummeted, it was claimed.