Debates about the roles of religion and belief in contemporary public life often centre around their place in institutions like schools. The commission’s consultation received a vast number of responses on issues to do with RE, collective worship in schools and schools with a religious character.
The following submissions are particularly noteworthy for their discussions of religion and belief in the context of education.
‘A particularly pressing need is for the recognition of an urgent increase and improvement in the quantity and quality of training for those who will be teaching RE’.
This response from the RE Council of England and Wales notes that there is considerable variation in the quality of RE as currently delivered. It argues that there has been neglect of RE in the training of teachers. The authors call for a review of the legal basis on which SACREs and Agreed Syllabus Conferences are set up, though they note divisions among their member organisations concerning the adequacy of the current system. The submission emphasises the need for greater religious and belief literacy throughout in society.
‘Those that belong to certain faith communities have more choice of schools, but those that don’t are finding they have an increasingly limited choice of school.’
This response to our consultation is from a humanist parent living in London. The author is concerned about the lack of coverage of non-religious worldviews in some locally agreed RE syllabuses. She also believes that schools with a religious character should not be permitted to select pupils on grounds of religion.
‘The trouble is everyone wants their religion or belief represented in the syllabus, often at each key stage and this has been encouraged by government over time.’
This submission sets out the legal framework for RE in England. It discusses developments in one local authority’s Agreed Syllabus Conference and SACRE, and issues such as the inclusion of non-religious worldviews and beliefs in RE.
‘…religion [is] a form of practice or as a way of life. This involves a ‘knowing how’ as much as a ‘knowing that’.
This submission is from the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, a Sikh organisation. The authors celebrate the current localised nature of RE syllabuses and call for the centralisation of RE to be resisted. They argue that RE needs to involve a ‘knowing how’ as much as a ‘knowing that’ – a practical appreciation of religious life as much as a theoretical understanding. The authors suggest this practical understanding could be gained through placements with faith-based social action organisations. They also suggest the inclusion of non-religious worldviews in RE should be resisted. This submission also makes extensive points related to law and social action.
‘There is a strong tendency to see religious schools through rose-tinted spectacles.’
David Pollock is former President of the European Humanist Federation. He argues that many religious groups are seeking to open schools so as to propagate their own beliefs at public expense. He challenges state funding of religious schools and argues that they are socially divisive. He also discusses issues in RE and challenges the legal requirement for collective worship in schools. The author also offers some detailed discussion of social change and legal issues.