Major new report into the role of religion and belief in schools calls for reform

June 15, 2015


The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has broadly welcomed a new report published today by Professor of sociology of religion, Linda Woodhead, and former Secretary of State for Education, Charles Clarke. The report by the two organisers of the Westminster Faith Debates, titled ‘A New Settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools‘, calls for a range of changes in the way religion and belief is negotiated in state funded schools in England, including:

  • making Religious Education (RE) a nationally determined subject at all state maintained schools, which covers the broad range of religious and non-religious beliefs in society
  • asking Government to seek agreement from faith school sponsors so that if their schools provide instructional RE they provide it apart of the formal school day
  • abolishing the requirement for compulsory worship in schools, and replacing it with non-statutory guidance on the provision of school assemblies
  • that OFSTED should re-establish ‘a strong inspection system’ to ensure all state funded schools are again inspected on their duty to promote community cohesion
  • that faith schools and their sponsors make ‘further effort … to developing … procedures which balance the rights of families of faith to have their children educated in that faith with other considerations of fairness to others and serving the whole local community … and that changes to the current legal position should be considered as an urgent matter if faith bodies fail to make progress’

The Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘The idea of segregating children into different faith schools is becoming increasingly discredited and the call for faith schools to make provision for people outside of the faith living locally is to be welcomed. One simple way forward to changing to a more inclusive system would be to extend the rule governing free faith schools – a maximum of 50% intake of pupils in any one faith – to all schools.

‘The report’s call to end the requirement for compulsory daily worship, to make RE at most schools a nationally determined subject, and to end compulsory instructional RE at all state funded faith schools, also helps demonstrate the broad and long existing consensus about how religion and belief should be approached in the school curriculum. The report should serve as a further wakeup call to our political leaders about how the current statutory framework for RE and assemblies is working to detriment of children’s education and needs urgent reform.’

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