Religion and schools in the news again

December 7th, 2015

Hot on the heels of my post last week about religious education and state impartiality comes the publication today of the 104-page report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life entitled “Living with Difference”.

Made up of 20 commissioners, including adherents of the main religious and belief traditions in the UK  (including humanism) and chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, the commission took two years to prepare its report and received more than 200 submissions during the public consultation process.

Chapter 4 of the report (pages 30-39) is devoted to education and includes the following suggestions and recommendations:

  • that rather than promoting greater cohesion, faith schools have been socially divisive and led rather to greater misunderstanding and tension, and selection of pupils and staff on the grounds of religion be reduced
  • the requirements for schools to hold acts of collective worship or religious observance be repealed and replaced with inclusive assemblies and times for reflection that are appropriate for pupils and staff of all religions and beliefs
  • a new subject be created with the same status as other humanities subjects which deals with religious and non-religious worldviews and with content that is broad and inclusive in a way that reflects the diversity of religion and belief in the UK
  • state inspectorates should be concerned with every aspect of the life of faith schools, including religious elements currently inspected by denominational authorities
  • the attention given in teacher training to religion and belief should be of a similar level to that which is given to reading and maths, so that every primary class teacher is confident and competent in this curriculum area and all secondary and FE teaching staff have general awareness of relevant sensitivities

As exam question writers like to say – discuss.

Paul Greatorex

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