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Parents shouldn't be allowed to remove kids from RE, report recommends

by Cara Bentley

It includes various recommendations such as parent's right to remove children from RE being abolished.

Charles Clarke, former Secretary of State for education, and Linda Woodhead, Professor of Religion at Lancaster University, wrote the report.

They say: "The last 25-years have witnessed some of the most significant shifts in religious belief and practice since the Reformation", citing how "churches' religious monopoly has been lost" and how other faiths have grown in prominence."

Generally, the report concludes that Religious Education has been treated as less important, has not kept up to date with a changing society and it makes several recommendations:

- Enforced collective worship should be abolished and inclusion should be left up to governors

- There should be a national syllabus of RE and not so much differentiation between schools because of locality

- Parents shouldn't be allowed to remove their children from RE

- Faith schools should still be allowed to prioritise children of faith in their admissions procedures but requirements for teachers and other students should be fair and 'kept under review'

Speaking to Premier, Rev Stephen Terry from the education group Accord Coalition, supported most of the report's proposals: "They make some very strong recommendations concerning the curriculum and other recommendations regarding collective worship and places of faiths schools which also need to be considered quite seriously."

He explained that RE currently still reflects the times of World War Two, when the first real Education Act was written.

"Things have changed a bit in this country since then, whereas in 1944 the majority belief in the country was overwhelming Christian, these days we live in a much more diverse and multi-cultural society"

"Our education legislation in general and legislation around the teaching of RE in schools and the acts of collective worship haven't kept pace."

Terry said the proposal to change the name of the subject to 'Religion, Beliefs and Values' is "a first class idea because it includes the three elements I would wish to see in any teaching of RE"

"The children who come out of school where this has not been given its proper emphasis are going to be coming out less well-equipped to cope with the demands and expectations of modern British society".

The Catholic Church however, say that the recommendations are unacceptable'.

Bishop Marcus Stock, the Bishop of Leeds for the Catholic Church, explained their reasons: "Firstly, that the State can impose a national RE curriculum, which would dictate what the Church is required to teach in Catholic schools.

"Secondly, the curriculum they suggest contains no theological content, which is at the core of Catholic RE."

He added: "We accept there is a need to improve RE in all schools and Catholic teachers and academics have been actively contributing to this discussion, producing suggestions that would work within the plurality in our country's schools sector, allowing for all schools to choose between RE as a theological discipline and Religious Studies as a sociological discipline."

Listen to the full interview with Rev Stephen Terry here:

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