Archive for January, 2016

Religious Education in UK Schools‏

Posted in Opinion, Politics on January 3, 2016 by Barrie Suddery

Following a recent BBC article stating that the UK Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, had advised that schools in England do not need to give non-religious views “equal air time” and should continue to teach pupils that the UK is a principally Christian country, I have written to my local MP, Alun Cairns to express my concerns over this:

Sir,

I am writing to express my concern regarding the Education Secretary’s recent statements expressing her view that schools in England don’t need to give non-religious views equal time in the curriculum and that should continue to teach that the UK is a mainly Christian country. 

I regard this as a patently false and divisive statement given the multi-cultural make up of the nation and on-going religious tensions in various communities which will only serve to further the rise of so-called faith schools and further the divisions in our society at a time when we need to be looking for ways to unite the country. As a Humanist with nieces and nephews currently going through school, I am adamant that they need to learn about other faiths as well as non-religious Atheist/Humanist views in order that they can properly appreciate the multi-cultural and multi-faith make up of our county. In addition, they need to be able to decide of their own accord what to believe in and can only do that, with the fullest details and facts available to them in accordance with the UK’s commitments under the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees citizens the right to choose and/or change their beliefs.
Whilst I have no objection to Ms. Morgan holding and expressing her religious views, as is her right, I do object to her, or anyone in government, allowing policy to be governed or influenced by those views.  I therefore would like clarification from you on the following points:
  1. Whether or not these guidelines apply to Welsh schools.
  2. That the government will immediately review these guidelines to ensure that all faith/non-faith views are covered in R.E. classes.
  3. That the government is committed to the principle of the separation of Church and State.
  4. That the government is committed to the representation of all sections of the community.
  5. That Ministers are required to keep their personal views separate from their duties.
  6. Whether or not the law makes any provision for the separation of Church and State.

I received the following reply from my MP:

Dear Mr Suddery, 

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me about religious education in schools. 

As you may be aware, much of this policy is devolved and the Welsh Government has responsibility for this area here in Wales. As a result, the UK Government is not able to intervene directly on this matter. However, I do appreciate your concern for the wider issue and have therefore spoken to other UK Ministerial colleagues to raise this issue directly. 

I agree that Religious Education is important for pupils’ understanding of the rich diversity of faiths and communities in the UK and their part in shaping the values and traditions of this country. As a result, it is rightly a statutory part of the basic curriculum, although the syllabus is not set by Government. 

Academies are free to set their own curriculum, under the terms of their funding arrangements; while Local Authorities set the curriculum for their schools through their Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education. Syllabuses must reflect that the religious traditions in Great Britain are, in the main, Christian while taking into account the teaching and practices of there other principal religions represented in the UK, including non-religious viewpoints. This model enables the needs and understanding of all cultures to develop.  I am frustrated that the Welsh Government have rejected the Academy approach.  

I hope this information is helpful and thank you once again for taking the time to raise this issue. 

Yours, 

Alun Cairns MP

Vale of Glamorgan