Religion and Worldviews : The Way Forward
(Final report of the Commission on Religious Education, published 9 September 2018)
I found this a remarkable document in a really positive way. The Executive Summary runs to 21 pages and is well worth the read. The full report at 97 pages is somewhat more substantial! Click below for the Summary.
The RE Commission has been working on this for the past two years and has taken a large quantity of evidence from organisations and individuals. This includes several submissions from Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of HUK, and he has clearly been listened to.
The first thing that struck me positively was the adoption of the term ‘worldview’ defined as ‘a person’s way of understanding, experiencing and responding to the world, … a philosophy of life or an approach to life.’ Humanism, Secularism and Atheism are specifically included in this concept, although only Humanism can be classed as a world view. Disappointingly, the latter two have been linked with Humanism when they are not world views, although they are legitimate positions that pupils should learn about.
The report takes the clear view that RE is a vital part of education but that it has not kept up with the pace of changes in society and schools. All too often pupils do not experience quality teaching appropriate for the diverse Britain of today. As I think we all know, 50% of the population and 75% of young people report being non-religious. Furthermore, in an increasing number of schools RE is not included in the curriculum at all. It is in this context that the report identifies 11 major recommendations. The key points are summarised below:
The subject should be renamed Religion and Worldviews.
The National Entitlement should become statutory for all publicly funded, including faith, schools and be provided for all pupils from 5 to 16 years of age.
Schools must then publish a detailed statement about how they meet the National Entitlement.
Programmes of study should be developed by a national body.
These must reflect the complex diverse and plural nature of worldviews and would be non-statutory.
Standing Advisory Councils on RE (SACREs) should be renamed Local Advisory Networks for Religion and Worldviews to provide services for all state funded schools, including academies. Their sub-committee, the local Agreed Syllabus Conference, would no longer be needed to write the curriculum.
All initial teacher training should enable teachers at primary level, and where appropriate secondary level, to teach the National Entitlement.
There should be continuing professional development for teachers funded by government allocated funds for at least 5 years.
Ofsted must report on whether schools are meeting the National Entitlement.
DfE should review the right of parents to withdraw their children from the new “Religion and Worldviews” subject.
The report recognises that care will need to be taken in implementing these recommendations and proposes a phased approach over three years. And of course, there may well be quite a reaction from the religious communities, who are rather minimally represented on the Commission, although well represented in the evidence. So no need to hold your breath just yet and, in any case the government does have other momentous items on its agenda!
Nevertheless, this report is a major move towards a much improved and relevant provision for religion and world views. As Andrew Copson says, ‘it represents a once in a generation opportunity to save the academically serious teaching of religious and non-religious worldviews in our schools.’
We should do everything we can to support its implementation. Suggested actions and templates are available on The Commission on Religious Education website. See below https://www.commissiononre.org.uk/what-can-you-do-to-support-the-national-plan-for-re/ Kate Hinton