From Mr John Keast
Sir, - When I was the professional officer for RE at the
Department for Education, Charles Clarke was a supportive Secretary
of State for Education, and published the non-statutory National
Framework for RE in 2004.
I welcome, therefore, the serious analysis of the issues for a
new settlement for religion and belief in schools set out in a
pamphlet by Mr Clarke and Professor Linda Woodhead (
News, 19 June).
I agree that there should be a national syllabus for RE as the
default position for all schools. This would go a long way to
removing much of the oddity and weakness of RE within the
curriculum, and raise standards of religious literacy. Local SACREs
would still have a useful part to play, as the pamphlet makes
I am less convinced about the proposals for faith schools based
on theoretical distinctions between RE, formation, and instruction.
In practice, they are not so easily distinguishable. It is, of
course, easier to argue the case for removing the right of parents
to withdraw their children from RE with such distinctions, but I
believe this may become a challenge too far.
The authors rightly argue that the legal requirement for RE to
be taught to all those in school sixth forms but not in sixth-form
or further-education colleges should be removed. I am, however,
greatly concerned about their proposals for RE for 14-16-year-olds,
particularly in the context of the recent announcement about GCSEs
in the EBacc subjects - from which RE is excluded.
It is puzzling that Mr Clarke and Professor Woodhead should risk
the status of RE by suggesting that the legal requirement should be
weakened as "to study religious, spiritual, moral, ethical, social
and cultural values", mixing it with PSHE, etc. This reminds me of
the tokenistic RE in many secondary schools when I began teaching.
Also puzzling is the recommendation to rename the subject
"Religious and Moral Education". We do not talk about Historical
Education, but History; so why not "Religion and Philosophy"? Mr
Clarke and Professor Wooodhead's recommendation that OFSTED should
re-establish a strong inspection regime is timely. It should never
have been abandoned.
If these proposals become the basis of high-level discussion of
the issues, as they should, the result could be a new settlement in
2019, 75 years after the Butler Act, and 30 after the Baker Act,
which foolishly introduced a National Curriculum without RE in
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Cornwall PL25 4SN
From Mr Clive Ireson
Sir, - The Association of Christian Teachers is deeply
disappointed with the first recommendation in A New
Settlement that the daily act of collective worship that must
be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character should be
Schools are tasked for providing for the spiritual, moral,
social, and cultural development of children. One of the ways it
can do this is through a collective act of worship of a broadly
Christian character. In schools, the act of collective worship can
give a pause in the day for children to reflect on God, and, when
done well, have a sense of wonder and awe.
Schools are often such frenetic places these days, with the
emphasis continually on academic excellence. The act of collective
worship allows children to explore in safety the reasons for life
and being, and that we are all equal in the sight of God, whatever
our academic ability. The sheer fact that in some schools the act
of collective worship is not "done" well is not a good reason for
Education was the "family business" of the Church. We do not
want to divorce education from the Church. We know there are some
who would want this.
Currently, it is the law that the daily act of collective
worship, wholly or mainly of Christian character, takes place; so
one wonders why OFSTED doesn't report on it more often in its
inspections, as OFSTED is surely required to inspect that all
statutory requirements are being met, not just the ones on which
OFSTED chooses to report.
This act of worship also allows faith leaders and religious
groups to be invited into schools to lead assemblies. This all
helps with understanding and community cohesion.
Of course, as always, there is a right of withdrawal from
collective worship. The vast majority of schools arrange the
worship in such a way that this option isn't taken up.
We live in a Christian country where the act of collective
worship is a fundamental part of life in Britain, and must be
protected so that all our children can explore their spiritual
dimension, and are better able to understand the reason for
Director, Association of Christian Teachers
23 Billing Road
Northampton NN1 5AT