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Welsh Catholic schools unite to oppose overhaul of religious education curriculum

The headteacher of every single Catholic school in Wales has written to the First Minister requesting that the Government reconsiders its plans to dramatically change Religious Education.

The heads of more than 80 Welsh Catholic schools have requested that the Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS drops the proposed legislation surrounding RE which they say specifically targets the Catholic ethos of their education programmes.

The Welsh Government plans to broaden traditional RE lessons to include a comparative ‘Religion Values and Ethics’ curriculum that removes much of the academic study as it relates to faith and religion. 

According to the Catholic Education Service (CES), the new proposals will penalise Catholic schools by placing "unreasonable legal requirements on them that no other schools have to satisfy, specifically forcing them to teach two separate RE curriculums without any consideration of resourcing impactions this would have for schools".

Within their letter, the headteachers argue that the new plan "fails to recognise the heritage and deep connection Religious Education has within schools of religious character".

The group further suggests that the Welsh Government is seeking to create a ‘neutral values’ curriculum which the CES says "risks moving towards a homogeneous education system which would no longer recognise children’s legal right to pursue a deep knowledge and spiritual understanding of their own faith as well as those of others".

The letter argues that the new curriculum is "impractical and undesirable for today’s Welsh society", concluding: "We believe Wales is a pluralistic, diverse and tolerant country built on respect for people with or without faith. It can only be through continuing to support a diverse provision of education facilities, that we can ensure this remains the case. We would seek your reassurance that it is not the Government’s intention to damage the distinctive Catholic nature of our schools. We also hope you will work with the Education Minister to revise these provisions before legislation comes to the Senedd later this year." 

The CES insists that most respondents to the Government’s consultation on the new plans objected to the subject name change and supported the continuation of parents’ rights to withdraw their children from lessons if they deemed them unsuitable. 

Paul Barber, director of the Catholic Education Service, commented: “I hope this letter from all of the headteachers makes the Welsh Government realise the overwhelming strength of feeling against these proposals to the Catholic community. They strike at the very identity of Catholic schools and at the heart of the principle that that parents, and not the State, are the primary and principal educators of their children.”

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