City faiths filmed for rural pupils

Pupils in Devon may have to travel as far as Bristol to see a Hindu temple but the county council has still managed to draw up an RE syllabus singled out for praise by inspectors.

The Office for Standards in Education said the effectiveness of Devon's Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (Sacre) was "due to its excellent relationship with the LEA, mediated through an effective RE adviser".

Mark Brimicombe, the RE adviser in question, said: "We do not have the richness of experience that some areas of the country have. Our nearest Hindu temple is in Bristol. So we went to Birmingham, Leicester and Bristol to film some Hindu worship. We then brought the film back as a resource for teachers. It is important to help youngsters to live with different faiths and respect them."

In its inspection of Devon Sacre, Ofsted also said the agreed syllabus provided "a very good grounding for planning, teaching and learning in RE", and that the "Sacre supports the work of Devon county council, and in particular the LEA, in improving religious, racial and cultural harmony in the county".

Kauser Ahmed, 44, a volunteer community worker at the Islamic Centre in Exeter since 1998, runs sessions on Islam in Devon's primary and secondary schools with her husband Shabir, 51.

The sessions include ones where under-12s dress up in headscarves and jalabiyas - the long robes worn by Islamic men and women - and try on the alcohol-free scents such as rose and jasmine favoured by Muslim women.

Mrs Ahmed said: "Last week I went into a primary school wearing shoes with two-inch heels and one little boy said he was surprised to see me, a Muslim woman, in high heels.

"Often I am the first black or Asian woman these children have encountered.

I come in and show them that Muslim women are not brainwashed or subservient. The children start to ask themselves why Iwant to follow Islam.

"There is a deeper engagement with different faiths here in Devon. We do not have the complacency that large metropolitan areas have.

"In London it is much more superficial; they say 'let us have a few samosas at Eid and let us celebrate Diwali'.

"When there are large numbers of different faiths in a school they think they can show they are multi-faith by pointing at the numbers in the group and saying that is enough."

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