TEACHING about Christianity in schools is often incoherent,
stereotypical, and lacking in intellectual development, and
teachers are often nervous about teaching RE because they are
worried that they could be seen as "evangelising", says a YouGov
poll, commissioned by the University of Oxford's Department for
The survey was undertaken as part of a new intervention project
by Oxford University researchers to support RE teachers. The
web-based initiative for trainee primary-school teachers seeks to
help them prepare for teaching Christianity by confronting issues
such as personal faith and teaching.
The poll found that the majority of those questioned - 64 per
cent - agreed that children needed to learn about Christianity in
order to understand the history of Britain. Its leading researcher,
Dr Nigel Fancourt, said: "In some schools, the fact that the basics
[of Christianity] are already vaguely familiar to some teachers and
pupils means it can present problems. . .
"The subject is often conceived as faith development,
particularly in some church schools, or moral development. Teaching
of Christianity should engage pupils with the depth and breadth of
the Christian tradition, present the subtlety of diversity, and
provide an academic challenge."
The free support project, which will be widely available by next
September, has been praised by the Religious Education Council of
England and Wales. Its chairman, John Keast, said: "For several
years, inspection reports have shown that the teaching of
Christianity, which is a key part of the RE curriculum in our
schools, is too weak. With the almost total withdrawal of
government support for RE, and with collapsing arrangements for
local support for RE, it is good to see a major university project
providing a positive way forward."
The project has been funded with donations from the Jerusalem
Trust and the Culham St Gabriel's Trust.
Dispute over faith schools. A dispute has
broken out in the Coalition Government over the expansion of faith
schools, amid accusations from the Liberal Democrats that the
Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is flouting the Coalition
Agreement. The dispute centres on two Roman Catholic schools in
Richmond, which are to recruit 90 per cent of their intake on the
basis of religion. The Coalition Agreement in 2010 called on faith
schools to have a 50-per-cent limit on faith-based intake.