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Moral vacuum attacked

Ministers accused of neglecting pupils spiritual and moral education. Sarah Cassidy reports

THE Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have launched an unprecedented joint attack on the Government's proposed new national curriculum and accused ministers of neglecting pupils' spiritual and moral education.

In a rare joint statement of protest, Catholic bishops and Church of England officials have demanded that marriage be included in the new curriculum, and that spiritual education and moral values be covered in all school subjects.

The late Cardinal Basil Hume, head of the English Catholic Church, would have been "utterly dismayed" at the lack of spiritual education in the new curriculum, according to Margaret Smart, director of the Catholic Education Service.

In his last speech on education before his death last month, the Cardinal called on teachers to inspire moral awareness in their pupils.

He said: "If the adult world cannot agree on the way we should live in society, how can we expect the young generation to know?

"If young people are to leave school fired with a wholesome moral vision and a sense of service then it demands that an intelligent and critical moral awareness is cultivated and inspired by teachers."

Both churches say they were effectively barred from taking part in the development of the whole national curriculum by the Government quango responsible for the review, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

They are outraged that the new curriculum does not mention marriage or parents' responsibility for educating their children.

The churches are calling on ministers to make the spiritual development of pupils part of every national curriculum subject but particularly in personal, social and health education.

Margaret Smart, director of the Catholic Education Service, said: "I find it absolutely unbelievable that in personal, social and health education this Government wants children to be taught about divorce and separation without any mention of marriage. It is an incomprehensible omission."

The joint statement from the Church of England Board of Education and the Catholic bishops' conference said: "Moral development - a growing awareness of how we live as individuals with others in community - must be set in the context of moral values agreed with parents and society more generally.

"We regard its omission from the current proposals for personal, social and health education and citizenship and its reduced significance in the whole school curriculum as serious and unacceptable."

Canon John Hall, general secretary of the Church of England board of education, said: "This is a very unusual step for both churches to take. But it arises out of our extreme concern that the new national curriculum fails to integrate spiritual development into the individual subjects. We are very disappointed with the Government's statement of values at the beginning of the curriculum, which fails to tackle spiritual development.

"Schools are required by law to promote the spiritual and moral development of pupils. We are dismayed that ministers have failed to recognise its importance in the new national curriculum."

Both churches plan to set out their detailed objections to the new national curriculum in separate responses to the consultation on the Government's proposals, which ends on July 23.

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