Commenting on the launch of the government’s much-anticipated curriculum review, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has said that Religious Education (RE) and collective worship need to be included in the review. The BHA has called for RE to become a national curriculum subject, and for the requirement for compulsory collective worship in schools to be repealed.
While the scope of the curriculum review is yet to be announced, the education White Paper, published in November 2010, proposed retaining the current arrangements for RE, despite consistent criticism from religious and secular groups and regulatory bodies such as Ofsted. The White Paper was also silent on the future of compulsory religious worship in English schools – currently required by law on a daily basis.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, "It would be a tragedy if Religious Education did not form part of this curriculum review because of its present, peculiar status as a statutory subject which is not part of the national curriculum.
"Current arrangements for RE mean it can be patchy in quality, and that non-religious perspectives such as Humanism are often not taught at all. Properly taught and examined, RE has the potential not only to be a rigorous introduction to the diverse philosophical heritage of humanity but also a subject where, introduced and engaging with a range of religious and non-religious beliefs and values, young people can refine their own developing worldviews.
"It can be a hugely important subject which has the potential to greatly enrich young people’s lives, but the current system, including the current legislative framework, prevents it from doing so. That is why it is so important that the current arrangements are scrutinised by the review, and RE gains the status of a national curriculum subject."
Commenting on compulsory worship in schools, Mr Copson commented, ‘The review also provides an exceptional opportunity to repeal the law requiring all schools to hold a daily act of collective worship. The law requiring worship is unfair, unnecessary and prevents schools from holding inclusive educational assemblies which can build shared values and a sense of community. Scrapping this restrictive law would be absolutely within the spirit of the government’s intention to ‘free’ schools and remove burdensome and unnecessary restrictions on teachers, who have been at the forefront of calling for repeal."