RE battles its way back into the fold

3rd November 1995 at 00:00
It is unfortunate that in arguing the case for moral and values education in school, Christopher Price feels it necessary to denigrate religious education. Most RE teachers would not recognise his caricature of themselves as acolytes of the clergy. Indeed, far from being overrun by clergy, a frequent complaint is that many RE teachers can't find enough clergy who have the appropriate professional skills for working with children and who can be used as resource persons in RE lessons.

In quoting from my Templeton lecture at the Royal Society of Arts, Christopher Price misses the main thrust of its argument. There was a very encouraging response to my call for a national collaboration on RE in which the total becomes much greater than the sum of the parts. For instance, plans are in hand for a national RE festival and Government has initiated a half GCSE in RE in concert with the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the exam boards. A broad consensus now exists about the subject's educational rationale and purpose which is contained in SCAA's preface to the model agreed syllabuses. There is a growing confidence among RE professionals that RE is a proper subject; that religion is a universal dimension of human experience and that a pupil's education is deficient if this aspect is not covered.

It is encouraging that new Labour recognises all this. At a conference in March at the Royal Society of Arts, an official spokesperson from Labour's parliamentary education team gave strong backing to RE. I have every confidence that having jettisoned 1960s thinking in other areas, Labour will not be tempted by Christopher Price to go back to 1960s thinking on RE. All the signs are that Labour's new realism has been extended to the value of RE as a curriculum subject in its own right which makes a positive and distinctive contribution to education overall.

JOHN D GAY Culham College Institute 60 East St Helen Street Abingdon, Oxfordshire

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