News comment on the Commission on Religious Education report, proposing that non-religious worldviews as well as major faiths should be taught
Rudolf Eliot Lockhart, Chief Executive of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales.
This report gives us a chance to secure the future of religious education. This chance can’t come soon enough following last month’s dramatic drops in exam entries for Religious Studies of over 20% at A-level and over 10% at GCSE. If we don’t grasp this opportunity, we risk the subject dying in many schools. If we let that happen we would be failing our young people and putting society in danger of greater misunderstanding and mistrust between people with different religious and non-religious identities. The Commission on Religious Education report gives a compelling explanation of why it is essential for all pupils in all schools to have a rigorous and academic education about a range of religious and non-religious worldviews. The proposal for a national entitlement for all pupils alongside the freedom for different groups to develop their own programmes of study provides an approach that respects the autonomy of schools over the character of their religious education while ensuring that no pupils miss out on core elements of essential study about religion and belief. I look forward to discussing the report with members of the RE Council. I hope that the Government will work closely with the RE Council to determine how best to build on the recommendations so that we can ensure all pupils have the high-quality education about religion and worldviews that is necessary to prepare them for life in modern
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive Humanists UK:
These recommendations are a once in a generation opportunity to save the serious teaching of religious and non religious worldviews in our schools. If the nettle is not grasped, decline will continue and this subject will sink into irrelevance. We need the new national entitlement for all children that this report recommends, we need the inclusion of the full breadth of religions and humanism that it endorses, and we need to proceed with the urgency that it calls for.
Alan Brine, Commissioner on the Commission for RE , HMI in Ofsted 2001-14 and its National Adviser for RE 2007-14:
The report is a game changer. For too long RE has suffered from confusion of purpose, outdated legal arrangements and low status in the public imagination. With a new vision to embrace the wide study of religious and non-religious perspectives on life, we should see radical changes in the curriculum taking the subject out of the hands of religious interest groups. It should secure the impartial, objective, broad and balanced study of the contemporary landscape of religion and belief essential for a fuller understanding of the world around us.
Jenny Uzzell, RE Examiner and consultant and RE and Faith Representative to the Religious Education Council:
Whilst there is some outstanding teaching of RE in the UK, there is also a great deal of inconsistency and it is clear that a significant number of schools are failing to meet their statutory responsibility to provide RE up to Key Stage 4. There has been a 10.4% reduction in the number of students entering for GCSEs in Religious Studies this year and there is an increasingly difficult environment for Religious Education, with few incentives for schools to do it well and few consequences for those that don’t. The report proposes a national entitlement for RE, greater degree of accountability from schools and redefinition – possibly expansion – of the role of regional Standing Advisory Councils for RE (SACRE). The report has no statutory status, but I hope that it provides a clear way forward at a time when religious literacy is increasingly important.