Wales leapfrogs England on curriculum progress

March 18, 2021

Inclusive education in Wales has taken a major step forward thanks to the passing by the Welsh Parliament earlier this month of the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill. The Bill will make Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) compulsory in all state funded schools and make explicit that all state funded non-faith schools cover non-religious philosophical convictions in Religious Education (RE), which is to be renamed ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’ (RVE).

The Bill follows Relationships and Sex Education having been made compulsory in English schools – both state funded and independent – for the current school year. It is expected to be granted Royal Assent in the coming weeks and will require the Welsh Government to come forward with proposed statutory guidance about themes schools must cover in RSE, for approval by the Senedd.

Thanks to the Bill, parents of pupils at state funded faith schools are also to be granted the right to ensure their children receive RVE instead of denominational RE, while the local authority committees that monitor RVE in most local schools are to be mandated to admit non-religious representatives alongside religious ones. The requirements for RVE presents an inclusive divergence from RE in England, where parents only have the right to withdraw their children from RE and where non-religious beliefs and representatives are often though not always included.

The Bill will further ensure state funded schools take a lead in the promotion of a rights-based approach to education, with all being required to promote knowledge and understanding of both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Bill has been spearheaded by the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams AM. The Accord Coalition met with the Minister back in 2016 and urged for a range of religiously inclusive reforms.

Chair of the Accord Coalition, the Revd Stephen Terry, said ‘The passing of this Bill is an encouraging step forward. The inclusion of the non-religious in Religious Education and this status being linked to children’s rights, is too often overlooked in education. Accord awaits publication of Welsh RSE guidance with interest. We look forward to the Bill gaining Royal Assent, and hope that it will provide inspiration to policy makers and encouragement to inclusivity campaigners in England.’

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