Religious opposition to Religious Education reform challenged

By staff writers
23 Aug 2010

A leading Rabbi who heads up an inclusive schools campaign says religious people should stop opposing quality RE in publicly-funded schools.

At present, Religious Education (RE) in schools is not part of the National Curriculum, meaning that its provision varies greatly in quality, and in some cases can be hijacked by particular interests groups or be taught in a way which does not give a balanced or comprehensive account of the variety of beliefs that shape the modern world, both religious and non-religious.

But faith schools in England continue to avoid proper accountability and supervision through the national Curriculum in order to be able to teach the subject from a selective, exclusive or confessional viewpoint.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, writing to the Times newspaper on Saturday 21 August 2010 in response to a report about the recent More4 television programme highlighting faith schools concerns, says it is ironic that while atheists such as the programme's presenter Richard Dawkins want Religious Education to be on the National Curriculum, "there are many religious people who oppose it to safeguard their own particular interests."

He declared: "It is vital that all children should know about the history, beliefs and traditions of the many different belief systems (including Humanism) that make up multi-faith Britain today, whatever their own personal religious orientation. It is a matter both of general knowledge and social cohesion."

Dr Romain is chair of the Accord Coalition, which brings a wide variety of organisations and individuals together to call for the reform of publicly-funded religious foundation ('faith') schools, seeking an end to current discriminatory practices in admissions, employment, assemblies and curricula.

The Christian think-tank Ekklesia is among the founding members of the Accord Coalition.

The Times letter in full:

Dear Sir:

It is ironic that while atheists such as Richard Dawkins want Religious Education to be on the National Currriculum (Times report, Aug 18), there are many religious people who oppose it to safeguard their own particular interests.

At the moment RE is in the anomalous position of being the only subject that is a statutary subject - ie it must be taught - but it is not on the National Curriculum - ie there is no set syllabus for it, just non-compulsory guidelines. This had led to wide variations according to local agreements or the category of schools, with many instances of only one faith being taught.

It is vital that all children should know about the history, beliefs and traditions of the many different belief systems (including Humanism) that make up multi-faith Britain today, whatever their own personal religious orientation. It is a matter both of general knowledge and social cohesion.

The Accord Coalition - which unites those of faith and no faith concerned about religious education - urges the government to take this step during its review of the curriculum next month, and thereby ensure that the next generation can be not only diverse, but also informed and at ease with itself.

Rabbi Dr JONATHAN ROMAIN
Chair, Accord Coalition
1 Gower Street
London
WC1E 6HD

[Ekk/3]

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