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Free-school bid to drop RE fails

07 December 2012

FREE schools must teach RE or lose their funding, the Government has insisted, after a dispute in Bristol over a new free school that said that it planned to drop the subject, writes a staff reporter.

The Bristol Primary School, which is due to open next September, said that parents had been "robust in expressing their wish for religion to not be a key focus of the school, preferring instead to provide religious and faith-led guidance and information to their children at home, through the wider community, and chosen places of worship".

After concerns were raised by clergy in the area, and the Department for Education (DfE) had been alerted, the school has now said that RE will be included as part of the curriculum. A statement on its website said: "All free schools are required by the Department for Education to teach Religious Education (RE) and we have included this as part of our curriculum. This includes the teaching of a range of religious morals and values as well as giving context to religion through history, geography and culture."

Free schools do not have to follow the curriculum, but they must teach religious education and offer a daily act of worship. In a non-religious free school, the worship should be "broadly Christian", the DfE guidelines say.

The Priest-in-Charge of St Paul's, Bristol, the Revd Barrie Green, raised concerns about the school's proposals to drop RE. "I spoke to the school's new principal, who told me that if it was a legal requirement, the school would do it."

Mr Green is a governor at a church school in the area, where Muslim children make up 80 per cent of the pupils.

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