Wales leads the way on non-religious inclusivity in Religious Education

March 8, 2019

The Welsh Government has issued proposals to ensure that local authority committees which monitor and determine the Religious Education (RE) taught in most state funded schools must include non-religious representatives and promote the teaching of non-religious world views. The Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education has welcomed the move as a boost to both religious inclusivity and the standing of RE in schools.

The Government revealed its plans earlier this term as part of wide ranging proposals to reform the school curriculum. It is intending to change the law to require that any local authority RE syllabus ‘takes account of non-religious world views which are analogous to religions’, and to clarify the Government’s reading that the law already requires local authority committees which monitor and determine RE to include non-religious representatives (alongside existing religious ones).

The Government’s understanding of how the law operates in this area is of relevance in England. Many state funded schools there also teach RE according to a syllabus determined by a committee of their local authority, and the legal framework determining the religiously diversity of the members of these committees is the same in both countries. The Accord Coalition met with the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, back in 2016 and urged for a range of religiously inclusive reforms.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Reverend Stephen Terry, said ‘High quality RE already includes the study of non-religious perspectives and the subject should promote dialogue, not discrimination. It is therefore very important for the relevance and effectiveness of RE that non-religious people and ideas are included.

‘It is disappointing that the Welsh Government is not seeking to require all faith schools to provide their pupils with an entitlement to a Religious Education that teaches about a range of religious and non-religious beliefs in society. However, it is to be congratulated for seeking to ensure that RE at the large majority of state funded schools is nonetheless balanced and inclusive of the non-religious.’

‘This move is very welcome and should serve as an example for the UK Government. We urge it to follow Wales and issue fresh opinion on what it thinks the law requires regarding the representation of non-religious people on local authority committees that monitor and determine RE in England.’

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