The Welsh government has today announced its plans to amend the law on religious education (RE) to include non-religious worldviews such as humanism for the first time, on an equal footing to major religions.
Humanists UK, which has led the campaign for this change, has hailed the decision as a great advance for children and families in Wales that will make education about religious and non-religious worldviews in their schools the most inclusive in the UK.
In its White Paper published today, the Government says it plans to amend the law in two areas: firstly on the RE curriculum and secondly on membership of agreed syllabus conferences (ASCs) and standing advisory councils on RE (SACREs), the bodies that set and oversee the RE syllabus in most schools. It recommended that instead of referring only to religion in these areas, the law should say that non-religious beliefs such as humanism must also be included.
The White Paper explains that this change has to occur to ‘take account of the effect of the Human Rights Act 1998’.
In 2017, Humanists UK won the right to take a judicial review under the Human Rights Act, over the case of a humanist parent, Kathy Riddick, who had been denied membership to her local SACRE by the Vale of Glamorgan Council. But the Council committed to reconsidering the decision, and before it did so, the Government decided to revise the guidance on SACREs to make clear that humanists can be members. Today’s move builds on that earlier decision.
Welcoming today’s announcement, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: ‘This is a tremendous progressive step by the Welsh government and we are delighted to have played our part in working with them to bring it about. All the usual justifications for teaching about religions in schools, from improving community cohesion, to helping young people explore the big questions of meaning and purpose, to understanding the history and culture of humanity - they all equally point to the need to teach about humanism.
The law on RE in Wales is at present the same in England, but the UK Government is yet to announce a similar move. Mr Copson continued, ‘Given that the argument for change in Wales is based on UK-wide human rights law, it is obvious that the UK Government must also now make changes to the law on RE in England to ensure humanism is included in schools there too. We look forward to making this case to them in the coming months and in working with them to ensure that children in England don’t lose out on the broader and more stimulating education from which children in Wales will soon benefit.’
The White Paper will go through an eight-week public consultation, and Humanists UK will be assisting its members and supporters in responding to it. The new curriculum will start to roll out nationally from September 2022.
For more information, contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07 393344293.
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