HUNDREDS of pupils at North Berwick High School have signed a petition demanding an end to Christian assemblies in the school.

The move comes after some students raised concerns regarding the claim that no other religions were represented at school assemblies, saying they should either all feature, or be scrapped completely.

One student involved in the petition told the Courier: “Students feel the assemblies are out of touch with the views of today’s society and young people.

“Christianity features already in our RME (Religious and Moral Education) studies, along with other religions, why is it then included in assemblies?

“It is discriminatory and outdated. Either all religions should be equally represented or none at all.” The petition was circulated in the school last week and within three days had been signed by 334 pupils. The school roll has 953 pupils on it, however the current number falls at the end of the year as school leavers depart and they await the influx of the new first year.

The petition said “By signing this petition you, as a North Berwick pupil, are agreeing that there should either be no religious influence (in assemblies, other events) in school or that all religious denominations should be represented, and that it is inappropriate for only one religion (Christianity) to be advocated, in particular the assemblies led by members of the Christian church.” The issue of single religion assemblies has been at the centre of debate between senior students at the school for some time. However it is claimed an article written by one senior pupil on the issue for the school newspaper was pulled from publication, leading to a team of around ten students setting up their own independent newspaper, The Contender.

The Contendor has produced two editions with the help of a grant from O2 Think Big - a project set up to support young people’s projects - and is circulated through the school and community youth spots such as Why Not, in the town.

A senior student said: “When the article for the school newspaper was pulled it was seen as censorship and The Contendor came out as an alternative. The number of pupils who have signed the petition shows the depth of feeling and debate on this issue, which we feel is being ignored by the school.

“Many of those who signed the petition come from Christian backgrounds, but it is a question of discrimination and equality.” North Berwick High School headteacher Lauren Rodger said she would be happy to discuss future assemblies and their format with students in the future.

She said: “I am very glad that pupils value our assemblies and I am very keen to work with them on this matter.

“As a non-denominational school, we work hard to raise awareness of a wide range of faiths in our RME classes. “I think there is plenty of scope to explore the nature of our assemblies with the pupil council and look forward to working with the student body on this.” The Rev Laurence Twaddle, Courier columnist and Belhaven Parish Church minister, was surprised by the number of signatures the petition had gained.

He said: “There is weighted emphasis on the place of Christianity because that is the local vibe and what made Scotland: Scotland and the educationalists feel it is important it gets particular emphasis in school communities.

“But there are very real constraints on what representatives of any faith can say at school assemblies, they cannot ‘promote their own party’ as such."