Beyond belief

30th May 2008 at 01:00
Your article ("Threat of legal action over `optional' acts of worship", TES, May 23) on moves by the National Secular Society to take the Government to judicial review over the statutory requirement for pupils to experience acts of "broadly Christian" worship and religious education raises, once again, the issue of pupils' human rights

Your article ("Threat of legal action over `optional' acts of worship", TES, May 23) on moves by the National Secular Society to take the Government to judicial review over the statutory requirement for pupils to experience acts of "broadly Christian" worship and religious education raises, once again, the issue of pupils' human rights.

Most secondary schools in which I have taught use assemblies to convey a moral message, rather than an overtly religious one. I have taught GCSE courses from two exam boards (OCR and Edexcel) and both include a requirement for students to understand why some people do not believe in God, in order to balance out the reasons that others may have for their faith.

In a multicultural and multifaith society, how can leaving students ignorant of the beliefs of others be of benefit? If students are given the right to withdraw from this part of their education, how long will it be before a deeply religious family plays the human rights card and insists that their child is not to be taught science in case it undermines their beliefs?

School is first and foremost about education, and that includes learning about human rights - not using the human rights issue as a tool to encourage the ignorance that leads to prejudice and discrimination.

Anne Maxwell, Humanities teacher and e-mentoring trainer, The Plume School, Maldon, Essex.

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