Deep concerns over Education White Paper

November 24, 2010

The Accord Coalition – which links both religious and non-religious groups concerned about the way faith schools currently operate – welcomes Michael Gove’s desire to improve teaching standards, but is deeply disappointed over two key aspects of his White Paper ‘The Importance of Teaching‘ released today.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said: ‘Firstly, it is highly regrettably that the Government has not used this opportunity to make Religious Education part of the National Curriculum.

‘Britain today is a multi-faith society and so it is vital that all children are given a solid grounding in the other faiths and cultures amongst which they live, both as part of general knowledge and for the sake of social cohesion.

‘Under the current arrangements, RE in faith schools can be overtly instructional and deny their pupils knowledge about other religions and beliefs in society, while RE in other state schools can be of such variable quality and quantity that in June Ofsted urged  the Department for Education to review its current arrangements.

‘It is particularly worrying that Government has not addressed the poor provision of RE in so many schools, especially in view of recent evidence about the negative agenda that some of them have towards wider society and other faiths.

‘Secondly, we are seriously concerned by the omission from the White Paper of the duty to promote community cohesion and the need for Ofsted to inspect schools on it. The duty to promote community cohesion was a significant measure introduced to address widespread public concern about faith schools and if – as we fear – the duty disappears, the Government will be backtracking on an important obligation.

‘It is vital to ensure that greater freedom does not lead to a chaotic free for all in which bigots are allowed to poison young minds, but instead that schools promote a common base of shared values and a sense of British citizenship. Michael Gove is entirely wrong to describe schools’ assessment on the promotion of community cohesion as “a peripheral issue”.

‘For the Government to turn its back on promoting good inter-communal relations in schools would be a devastating statement of its priorities, which would harm the country’s future social well being. There may be merit in devolving more powers to teachers, but the greater the freedom the Government gives to schools, the more important it is to have rigorous powers of monitoring.’

Notes

Ofsted’s ‘2002-03 annual report – secondary education stated that four fifths of secondary schools do not hold a daily act of collective worship for all pupils.

Ofsted’s report into the strengths and weaknesses of Religious Education in primary and secondary schools in England, ‘Transforming religious education’, can be found here.

2 Responses to Deep concerns over Education White Paper

  1. Miss Clark RE teacher on November 30, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Very well said, I lament deeply too. In one hand British society is multicultural on other BNP, religious intolerance or in some religious group grow. We must act. What and how can I do? I am more than happy to help lobbying for this good cause.

  2. Mrs Watts on December 9, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I am deeply concerned that RE has be firstly missed out completly and secondly not included as a Humanity under the new Baccaulaurete provision. My school is working to implement this from September with current Year 9. They want to expand RE provision in the school and sadly I don’t think this will happen. Number of options students have are going to reduce dramatically and I can see Option RS class size reduce or not even be an option anymore. I see bad times ahead for RE.

    Head of RE

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