Opinion Former Article

Religious Education not taught in thousands of UK schools, new report reveals

More than a quarter of secondary schools in the UK are not teaching their pupils any religious education (RE), a new report by the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) and Religious Education Council for England and Wales has revealed. Humanists UK, which is a founding member of the RE Council and campaigns in favour of inclusive education about religious and humanist beliefs, has stated that the report makes a strong case for fundamental reform of the subject.

The report, which details the results of a survey of 790 schools, found that no RE is being provided in 28% of secondary schools. The situation is much worse in academies and free schools, where RE is not taught at Key Stage 3 in 34% of schools, or at 44% of schools at Key Stage 4.

All state schools in the UK are legally required to teach RE to their pupils. Local authority schools must follow a syllabus set locally by the council, while academies and free schools are able to teach their own form of RE. Faith schools of all kinds are also able to teach their own version of RE, and are free to teach it from a faith-based perspective.

Humanists UK believes that all schools should be required to follow the same, broad RE curriculum, and that teaching in all schools, including faith schools, should be objective and inclusive.

Concerningly, NATRE has suggested that the survey may present a more positive picture than is actually the case, noting that schools who perform well in terms of their RE provision would be more likely to respond to the survey.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘Providing children with an objective, balanced, and inclusive education about different religions and humanism is vital to promoting mutual understanding and challenging prejudice. In a country that is more diverse than it has ever been, it’s very disappointing to learn that so many children are missing out on this kind of education.

‘That said, it is not altogether surprising that so many schools are turning their back on RE given the fragmented and outdated system for setting syllabuses, as well as the exclusion of RE from the English Baccalaureate. Given the dire consequences of people growing up without knowing anything about the beliefs and practices of those with whom they share a society, the Government ought to consider very seriously the reforms that are needed to improve the subject’s standing. We will certainly be urging them to do so and will continue to work alongside a range of educators and religion and belief organisations in campaigning for that reform.’

Notes

For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on jay@humanism.org.uk or 07970 393680.

Read more about Humanists UK’s work on Religious Education: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/religious-education/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association:https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/

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