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Curriculum for Wales 2021: RE absorbed into wider topic with values and ethics

06 May 2022

Church in Wales

Pupils of St David’s C in W Primary School, Cardiff, sang at the Governing Body. The school has recently won the School of Sanctuary Award for its ongoing commitment to welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers

Pupils of St David’s C in W Primary School, Cardiff, sang at the Governing Body. The school has recently won the School of Sanctuary Award for its ong...

THE Minister for Education and Welsh Language in the Welsh Government, Jeremy Miles, was due to address the Governing Body on Thursday of last week during the Church Schools presentation, but was unable to attend.

It fell, therefore, to the Assistant Bishop in Bangor diocese, the Rt Revd Mary Stallard, to introduce the Governing Body’s education report. The Church in Wales has more than 26,000 children in 146 schools, 30 of which deliver education through the Welsh language.

The Provincial Director of Education, Elizabeth Thomas, described the new Curriculum for Wales 2021 as “one of the most significant changes for a decade”. It is designed to ensure that all learners will have “the knowledge, skills, and experiences they will need to live, work and adapt to an ever-changing world”.

Six areas of learning are given equal weighting. Humanities includes Religion and Values and Ethics (RVE), previously known as religious education. It is mandatory, includes the requirement to teach non-religious philosophical convictions, and must be “objective, critical, and pluralistic” in its approach. “No one is able yet to give a clear outline of what this will look like in a primary classroom in Wales,” Ms Thomas acknowledged.

Some reservations had been expressed, she said, as only a minority of teaching staff had religion as a subject specialism, but 200 leaders and teachers had now taken an introductory RVE session. The Church in Wales had developed supporting guidance for RVE in its schools. Its work has been supported by the Welsh Government, and would link directly to the wider curriculum guidance.

The Bench of Bishops’ Statement on Education emphasises: “Throughout its history, Wales has welcomed people of different faiths and from different cultures, and via its teaching of the subject of Religion, Values and Ethics, the Church in Wales supports an approach which promotes the understanding of and respect for all religions, beliefs and non-religious worldviews, thus reflecting the diversity that exists in our forward looking Welsh society.

“Our approach celebrates a creative, compassionate education that embraces and empowers, ensuring that children and young people are supported to engage with matters of ‘purpose, faith and belief’, and to fulfil their roles as valued members of society ready to play a full part in life and work as ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world.”

The Church in Wales’s supporting guidance, which also includes signposts to key Christian concepts, has been acknowledged by the Welsh Government, with whom education professionals from the Church in Wales have been in regular conversation as policy has developed.

St David’s C in W Primary School, Cardiff, has recently been awarded the School of Sanctuary Award for its ongoing commitment to welcoming refugees and asylum-seekers. The school’s RE lead, Bethan Bowen, spoke of how an Advent project, framed as a story of refuge, had made pupils “want to help those fleeing from their homes”.

She brought a choir of 60 pupils from the school to sing to the Governing Body an early version of the Lord’s Prayer, written in Anglo-Saxon by the Welsh writer and composer Tim Riley. They had learned, in the process, how language changed over time, Ms Bowen said. The children received a standing ovation — “I haven’t seen one of those before,” Bishop Stallard said.

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