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Major new report into the future of RE calls for statutory national framework and full inclusion of non-religious worldviews

REforREal-LogoIn a new report into the future of religious education in England, researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London have called for an overhaul of teaching about religion and belief in England, as ‘changes in the real religious landscape have far outpaced changes in education about it’. The report, entitled RE for REal: The Future of Teaching and Learning About Religion and Belief, draws on qualitative interviews with hundreds of students, teachers, parents, and businesses, and makes a number of recommendations, including the introduction of a statutory ‘national framework for religion and belief learning’ and a reassessment of the role currently played by the bodies that set RE syllabuses locally. The report also recommends that non-religious worldviews be fully included in RE, a requirement which was enshrined in law last week by a ruling in the High Court. The British Humanist Association (BHA), who were part of the ‘influencers group’ responsible for helping formulate the direction of the research, have welcomed the recommendations.

Summarising the findings gathered from interviews with over 300 people, the report emphasised the importance of RE’s role in imbuing children with ‘positive attitudes’ towards those of different religions and beliefs, and stated that students, teachers, and parents all thought that the subject’s contribution to social cohesion was vital. The majority of those interviewed also thought that students should learn about as wide a range of religions and beliefs as possible, including non-religious worldviews. Only one parent disagreed with this last part.

Commenting on the launch, one of the report’s authors, Professor of Faith and Public Policy at Goldsmith, Adam Dinham, said ‘The religious landscape now includes religious traditions, informal religions and beliefs as well as non-religious worldviews. We think non-believers and those with informal beliefs need to be treated more seriously as a growing part of the picture.’

A total of 10 recommendations are made in the report as part of the overhaul, principally calling for a new national panel to reassess the legal framework for RE in light of a number of the survey findings. This supports a number of similar reports published on the subject in recent months. Among the recommendations are a change to the name ‘Religious Education’ to better reflect the purpose and approach of the subject, greater investment in Initial Teacher Training for both specialist and non-specialist RE teachers, and the creation of a new statutory National Framework which would be applicable to all schools. Also recommended was the full inclusion of non-religious worldviews in the subject.

The report was published just days after a landmark ruling was handed down in the High Court, requiring the teaching of non-religious worldviews like Humanism alongside the teaching of religions in schools. The BHA has produced both a blog and a briefing explaining the decision and the impact it will have in schools.

BHA Education Campaigner, Jay Harman, commented ‘We absolutely welcome the recommendations set out in this report, particularly around the creation of a statutory national framework for RE and the full inclusion of non-religious worldviews throughout the curriculum. These are policies we have championed for some time, and we are glad to see that the report reveals widespread support for these positions among teachers, students, and parents. We hope the Government will give due consideration to the report’s findings in assessing the need for reform.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman on jay@humanists.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read the full report RE for REal: http://www.gold.ac.uk/faithsunit/reforreal/

Read the BHA’s news item on the recent High Court judgement ‘Judge rules Government broke the law in excluding Humanism from school curriculum’: https://humanists.uk/2015/11/25/judge-rules-government-broke-the-law-in-excluding-humanism-from-school-curriculum/

Read the BHA’s blog ‘Our humanist High Court win changes everything – except, perhaps, the GCSE’: http://humanistlife.org.uk/2015/11/26/our-humanism-high-court-win-changes-everything-except-perhaps-the-gcse/

Read the BHA’s briefing on why Humanism is now normally included in Religious Education syllabuses: http://humanismforschools.org.uk/guidance/why-humanism-is-included-in-religious-education-re/

Read more about the BHA’s work on RE: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/religious-education/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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