Schools were basically split into two types; non-denominational, which back in the seventies was mainly Protestant, and Catholic.

And it was easy to tell which was the latter due to the name, either Saint Somebody or Our Lady of Something.

And the reason someone wanted to know what religion you were wasn't to have an ecumenical debate, but to work out which group you belonged to. If you gave the wrong answer, you had to be prepared to run.

At the time attending a non-denominational school, I it seemed to me that the simple solution to this division between the communities would be to end segregation by ending faith schools, which in the UK are mainly funded by the state.

Decades later though, nothing has changed.

Despite the number of young people who have a religious belief falling year on year, religion still has a powerful hold in many of our schools.

In common with many countries across the world, Australia is experiencing a rise in the number of people with no religious belief, almost a third of the population responding that they have no faith, to the Religion question at the last census in 2016. 

In the UK the fall is even more drastic; almost three out of four 18 to 24-year-olds say they follow no religion, a rise of nine per cent since 2015.

Yet schools are not matching the shift in public attitudes by changing their denomination from faith school to secular.

In fact Australia has recently been bucking the trend with the establishment of even more religious schools, in a country which already had a higher than average number of faith schools compared to its first world counterparts.

It should be noted that many Australian states have more liberal views than the UK towards the classroom subject of Religious Education, where it is compulsory for all British school children.

Although as far as I am aware, no school has a policy of pupils litter picking instead of attending a Religious Education class if their parents tic the ‘No Religion’ box.

There's plenty of evidence to paint faith schools as being led by fundamentalist fire-breathers with no grasp of the modern world, such as the banning of something as innocent, and educational, as the Harry Potter books in certain faith schools in North America, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  

The books were deemed to promote witchcraft and a belief in magic within their young readers, and the banning confirmed the worst prejudices of humanists everywhere.

I can also remember the head teacher of a Catholic primary school who told me about a nun teaching in the school, who would check whether poorly behaved children had been baptised, to confirm her own bias.

As with everything concerning education and religion, nothing is ever straightforward.

My own black and white view, humanism-good; religion-bad, was seriously shaken when I worked in a Catholic school for six years.

I had my initial prejudices confirmed when I first witnessed the level of religious symbolism within the school; crucifixes were on the wall of every classroom and a statue of the Virgin Mary was above the entrance to the building (which was known as ‘Our Lady of the Shower Cabinet’ as she was encased in a glass box).

Prayers were held in the outside yard every morning, even in the middle of a harsh Scottish winter, and all pupils had to participate, whether they were adequately dressed or not.

All of this seemed anachronistic in the 21st Century to me, yet the warmth and sense of community was also notably stronger than anywhere else I have previously, or subsequently, worked.

I suppose it is when we encounter mortality that religion really comes into its own and it wasn’t until a death occurred that this school community ignored the petty enmity which can exist between students and teachers and united to mourn.

A popular former teacher died suddenly of a heart attack and a mass was held for him one lunchtime in the school chapel.

The large crowd spilled over into the playground as pupils and teachers came together to pay their last respects.

I can't think of any secular ritual or act that could so successfully allow a community to come together and mourn as I witnessed that day in Motherwell.

Yet there is another side to this sense of unity. I couldn’t go for promotion as a guidance teacher nor lead pupils on lessons in morality due to my own lack of faith.

By its very nature, the school had to do this as a religious school community has to exclude non-believers, if it didn’t it would lose its modus operandi and wouldn’t be a religious school community.

However, if you were to ask an LGBT student about the level of support they receive from their faith school or what sex education the pregnant student received, the answers would be rather depressing I'm sure.

And it is in this area of sexual morality that religious educational institutions can let their young people down.

There is a further paradox at the heart of Religious Education. As a concept ‘religion’ can’t be analysed, experimented on or proven: in fact solutions should not be proven but believed through faith alone.

Looking at it this way, religion is the antithesis of education and should be given as much importance in schools as other subjects that pupils should learn about, such as geography or home economics.

It is possible, that if religious institutions hadn’t been instrumental in the establishment of schools then their fundamental role wouldn’t exist today.

Imagine schools had been set up by groups of philosophers millenniums ago; we would probably be talking about the negative influence of philosophy in education, with everything being over-thought and analysed rather than taking learning forward.