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Student teachers need to know about a range of religious traditions

In his letter opposing the inclusion of religious education in teacher training programmes (TES, May 16), Charles Clark appears to confuse the issue of the place of religious education in the curriculum of maintained schools with thatof the preparation of student teachers to deliver this subject in the classroom.

I do not wish to enter into the debate about the former, except to say that in most BEd and PGCE programmes currently provided, the emphasis is indeed on education about religion, not into religion.

In the primary classroom, however, I would not expect the philosophical "examination of its coherence" that he advocates to occur on a frequent basis, since, at this stage, most pupils are too young to embark on such an activity.

I regard this issue, however, as distinct from the question of whether student teachers should complete a taught programme in this subject area, as part of their course.

Even if they later avail themselves of their legal right to withdraw from the teaching of this subject, there are at least two strong arguments in favour of its provision in initial teacher education.

The first is that, until the students have a clearer picture of what is entailed in the teaching of this subject in our pluralist society, they cannot make an informed decision.

The second is that they may well find themselves, in the course of their careers, teaching children from the wide range of religious traditions represented in this country.

As teachers of young children, they need to have a measure of understanding and insight into the background cultures of their pupils, as well as a knowledge of the religious dimension of human experience which continues to be of influence to both individuals and societies today.

The religious education programme covered in their training course should provide them with a necessary introduction to these aspects, and I would be worried about student teachers who did not wish to avail themselves of the opportunity to learn more about the children who will be in their care.


Lecturer in education

Faculty of Arts Education

University of Plymouth, Devon

TES may 30 1997 neil turner

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