New guidance on teaching Religion, Values, and Ethics (RVE) risks continuing to exclude humanism, Wales Humanists has told Welsh Government.
The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act received royal assent in April. Under the Act, RVE – the new name for religious education – must include teaching about ‘non-religious philosophical convictions’. The Act also says that non-religious representatives may also join the local authority bodies that oversee and develop the RVE syllabus. These are known as Standing Advisory Councils (SACs) and Agreed Syllabus Conferences (ASCs).
But, in response to a public consultation, Wales Humanists has raised concerns that the definition of non-religious philosophical convictions used in the guidance will confuse teachers. The guidance fails to name humanism, despite the fact it is the principal non-religious worldview held in Wales. Instead it refers to convictions which are not non-religious, but could be held for either religious or non-religious reasons. These bizarrely include the view that corporal punishment is wrong. Wales Humanists believes this could lead to the continued exclusion of humanism in favour of beliefs that should not normally be covered in RVE.
The guidance also uses a definition of religion which focuses on monotheistic traditions and excludes dharmic faiths (like Hinduism and Buddhism). And it provides little guidance on how to plan or teach in an ‘objective, critical, and pluralistic’ way. Unlike RE, there will be no right to withdraw from RVE. Without this, Wales Humanists is concerned teachers may violate the freedom of religion or belief of pupils and their families by providing a biased curriculum.
Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick commented:
‘The Welsh Government said that a key reason for changing the law on RVE was to bring it into line with the Human Rights Act. For this to become reality, it must make sure that humanism is included on an equal footing with religions in the curriculum. However, this guidance uses confusing definitions of non-religious philosophical convictions and fails to even mention humanism as an example. We are deeply concerned that this guidance won’t help teachers or the bodies responsible for developing the syllabus. Worse, it could lead to humanism and humanists being excluded in the same way they were before the Act was introduced. This fundamentally undermines the very purpose of the new curriculum.
‘We call on the Government to amend the guidance so it is clear that RVE must be taught in an “objective, critical, and pluralistic” way. And to make clear that to meet this standard, humanism must be taught in every school.’
Relationships and sexuality education (RSE)
Alongside the consultation on RVE, the Government has been running a consultation on a new relationships and sexuality education (RSE) Code and guidance. Under the new curriculum, age-appropriate RSE will be compulsory for all pupils aged 3-16, with no parental right to withdraw. In response to this consultation, Wales Humanists strongly welcomed the fact the guidance says RSE must be taught in ‘a neutral, factual way’. It said this should help prevent the use of misogynistic, pseudoscientific, faith-based resources. These include A Fertile Heart, which was recently condemned by the UK Government but is still being taught in many schools across Wales. Wales Humanists’ response also praised the explicit inclusion of LGBTQ+ lives in the RSE Code. This sets out the content schools must provide to meet their legal obligations to provide RSE.
However, Wales Humanists pointed out that LGBTQ+ inclusion needs to be more fully woven into the document. At present gender and sexuality are not currently mentioned in any of the statements of learning. There are also many gaps in content, with important issues such as children’s rights, forms of abuse, contraception, and abortion not covered. Wales Humanists said these must be addressed to make sure all learners in Wales can access high-quality RSE.
For further comment or information in Wales, please contact Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick via firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07881 625 378. In England, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Ruth Wareham via email@example.com or phone 07725 110860.
Read the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act.
Read our most recent article on the Welsh Government guidance saying RSE must be taught in ‘a neutral, factual way’.
Read our article on the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act receiving royal assent.
Read our article on the Welsh Curriculum Bill passing Stage Four in the Senedd.
Read more about Wales Humanists’ work on RE.
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