Christian groups are using Religious Education lessons in state schools to convert young people as part of their missionary work, a new report claims. The National Secular Society (NSS) believes there's a "determined push" by evangelical churches and organisations to gain access with the intention of "proselytizing" among young children. The NSS says some groups are holding assemblies and Bible clubs in schools in England, without parents' knowledge and with little, if any, opportunity for parents to remove their children if they wish. According to the report, the motivations and aims of religious groups are going unquestioned by head teachers, governors, Local Education Authorities and the Department for Education.
The NSS says there's been an increase in the number of parents contacting them concerned about what is going on.
Steven Evans - Campaigns Manager at the NSS - told Premier's News Hour about some of the complaints:
The NSS report highlights a number of groups including Youth For Christ.
One of its Directors Dave Newton told Premier's News Hour team members are invited by the school and disputes the claims made in the report:
The NSS says RE should be replaced with a new National Curriculum subject that allows pupils to take a more objective and religiously neutral approach to the consideration of moral and ethical issues.
The group has also written to Education Secretary, Michael Gove, calling for national guidance setting out best practice for working with external visitors and contributors and particularly religion and belief groups. But speaking to Premier Revd David Robertson from the SOLAS Centre for Public Christianity says is unnecessary:
In a statement, the Department for Education said it had not seen "any evidence" to support the report's claims and had not received any complaints from parents about the issue.
The DfE also pointed out that state schools cannot teach creationism as scientific fact.
A spokesman said:
"They must offer a broad and balanced curriculum and meet their obligations under equalities legislation.
"Schools have a responsibility under law to ensure children are insulated from political activity and campaigning.
"Schools are required to safeguard the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils.
"Ofsted inspections include a focus on this to enable them to identify any inappropriate practice."