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RE boosts community cohesion, say MP

21 March 2014


RELIGIOUS education lessons play an effective part in preventing the misunderstanding and conflict that is often found among different faith groups in schools, a committee of MPs said in a report this week.

Effective RE was proving successful in countering the misinformation, myths, and stereotypes that had become embedded in the national psyche, the report RE and Good Community Relations said.

Based on evidence given by teachers and community representatives to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on RE, it was launched at a Westminster seminar on Monday.

"It is vital that all young people are armed with the right knowledge and facts to discriminate between myth and reality," Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon and chair of the group, said. "This report shows how good RE, in teaching all world religions, can support a school's broader responsibility to produce knowledgeable and adaptable young people able to live harmoniously with others."

The report calls for school-based community-relations policies on matters of religion and belief; and the use of standing advisory committees and other networks to promote contacts between young people from differing backgrounds.

Those concerned about the current problems facing RE in schools frequently cite the subject's contribution to community cohesion as a reason for giving the subject greater prominence.

This week, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who chairs the Board of Education and is a constant critic of the Government's attitude to RE, said hehoped that the new report - the fourth on the subject this year - would result in action by ministers. "The report makes clear that religious education is essential if student are to understand the modern world," he said.

The report's conclusions were widely backed by faith organisations. The chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, David Gifford, said that it demonstrated the importance of RE as Britain became an increasingly multicultural and multifaithsociety.

Retirement. The Revd Janina Ainsworth, chief education officer of the Church of England, is to retire on 31 August, it was announced this week. Mrs Ainsworth, who took up the post in 2007, is also general secretary of the National Society. An RE specialist, Mrs Ainsworth taught at St Martin's College, Lancaster, before joining the staff of Manchester diocese, first as RE officer, later as diocesan education officer.

She was strongly associated with the national inquiry into the C of E's schools, chaired by Dr Priscilla Chadwick, which resulted in the report Church Schools of the Future, published last year. The Rt Revd John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford and chairman of the Board of Education, praised Mrs Ainsworth's "calm authority and clarity of mind".

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