Religious education should help pupils to understand religious as well as non-religious world views, and the way in which these can play out in political, social and cultural life, a new report states.
And all state-funding schools, including academies and free schools, are being called on to publish details of their approach to teaching RE.
A report published by the Commission on Religious Education, published today, has reviewed the laws and policies behind RE teaching, as well as looking at the way that the subject is delivered in schools.
Religious Education for All says that increasing numbers of schools are failing to meet their basic legal requirements for RE. This, it says, means that it is a lottery whether pupils have access to high-quality RE teaching. They therefore “miss out on vital preparation for life in a multicultural society and globalised world”.
The commission calls for a new national entitlement for RE, setting out the aims and purposes of the subject, and what it should teach pupils.
The commission argues that RE helps to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain, by helping them to engage respectfully with people whose worldviews differ from their own.
It proposes that RE should teach pupils how these world views are often bound up with people’s thinking and actions in all realms of life, and are “inextricably woven into, influence and are influenced by all dimensions of human experience”.
Teachers would also be required to “demonstrate a good understanding of, and take responsibility for, the sensitive handling of controversial issues, including thoughtful discussion of religious and non-religious world views”.
It also calls for schools – including academies, free schools and faith schools – to publish details of ow they meet this national entitlement.
And a national plan for teaching RE would ensure that trainee primary teachers spend a minimum of 12 hours learning to teach RE, as well as observing RE teaching at a leading school for the subject.
'Life's big questions'
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, chair of the commission, said: “All students need a thorough understanding of religious and non-religious world views, regardless of their own personal views, as a vital preparation for life and employment in modern Britain.
“A rich understanding of Britain’s diverse communities, and a broad perception of different world views, will enable students to build a more cohesive and peaceful world for the future.”
Humanists have welcomed the report, highlighting the need to consider changing the name of the subject, so as to better reflect its inclusion of non-religious world views, philosophy and ethics.
Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK, said: “Education about religious and humanist beliefs is vitally important for any child growing up in Britain today.
“But if that education isn’t effective, if it excludes people with certain beliefs, if it glosses over difference or fails to emphasis shared values, if it presents only a simplistic, shop-window version of religion and belief, or doesn’t allow children to come to their own conclusions about life’s big questions, then it isn’t doing its job.”
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