pound;1m curriculum overhaul will drag lessons up to date
The religious education curriculum is facing a major review after criticism that lessons are poor and teaching quality variable.
The Government has agreed that the subject's framework needs to be scrutinised and brought up to date.
Jim Knight, the schools minister, said that last year's Ofsted report on the subject, which raised concerns about teaching standards and pupil attainment, could not be ignored.
As part of the review, guidance for RE will be separated from rules on collective worship, which require schools to hold a daily act of "broadly Christian" worship.
There are no plans to change the rules on worship, but Mr Knight did not rule it out for the future. Ofsted figures for 2004-05 show that only 17 per cent of secondaries held daily acts of worship; in primaries, the figure was 98 per cent.
The RE consultation has prompted calls for radical changes to the way the curriculum is set. At present, the subject operates outside the national curriculum, with local authorities drawing up what is taught.
A voluntary national framework was introduced in 2004, but it has not been universally implemented.
The RE Council, which represents all major faith groups, wants ministers to consider new laws to ensure consistency. Brian Gates, chairman of the council, said: "We are asking that the current arrangements be examined to see if they are fit for purpose. We want to see effective provision in every school."
The Church of England has supported a national curriculum since 2004; the Catholic Education Service supports the voluntary framework, but is against a national curriculum for RE in its schools. There is likely to be resistance from faith schools, which currently set and evaluate their own RE lessons.
Andrew Copson, education officer for the British Humanist Association, said: "We promote explicit inclusion of non-religious beliefs to offer a better deal for the majority of young people who are not religious, and to move this subject firmly into the modern world."
Mr Knight pledged pound;1 million over the next three years for online support and materials to help teachers deal with topics such as religious fundamentalism and hate crime. Improved training is also promised.
Mr Gates said the money was "a start", but more needed to be done.