Sunday, January 13, 2008

You can become involved - visit your local SACRE says"

Education is probably very high on your list of concerns about the role of religion in our society - it is also the easiest one where you as an individual can become involved in doing something about it rather than just moaning about it.

Background to SACREs

Under the Education Act, every Local Education Authority must have a SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education. SACRE is pronounced "Sack-ruh") to determine the local RE curriculum. Members, apart from local authority appointees, are drawn from local religious groups. Non-religious groups are not represented by right but most SACREs co-opt a humanist or secular representative.

SACREs are public bodies and you have a right to attend as an observer but you have no right to speak or question - unless invited to do so. You can obtain meeting dates from the SACRE clerk - contact details are available at Send a polite letter requesting meeting dates and the chances are that you will be welcomed with open arms - initially!

Chris Street comments are in bright green;
highlights in yellow blockquotes.

Possible issues to raise if you are allowed to ask questions:

  • What steps does the SACRE recommend schools should take to inform parents of their legal right to withdraw their children from worship and RE and what arrangements does it recommend for the education of children who are withdrawn?
  • It is obviously important that all schools provide a balanced view of all religious and non-religious beliefs so that pupils can appreciate the wide variety of views held about religion. Which schools in the LEA area follow the SACRE syllabus and which do not?
  • Page 8 of the Ofsted document "An evaluation of the work of SACREs" says "RE teaching must not be distinctive of any denomination; it should not try to force specific beliefs or doctrines upon children." What steps does the SACRE take to ensure that this is the case in all schools and is the SACRE aware of any schools which do promote specific beliefs or doctrines?
  • How does the SACRE syllabus explain that religious beliefs are not necessary to lead a good life with strong social values and responsibilities? How are those values and responsibilities taught to pupils withdrawn from RE?
  • How does the SACRE syllabus explain the validity of a non-religious world-view given that Atheism and Agnosticism are not mentioned in the NFRE (see below) and Humanism is mentioned only once, is not a core requirement and is not covered at all in teaching-related material?
  • How does the SACRE syllabus explain that some people need a god while others do not, and how are those needs examined?

The Non-statutory National Framework for Religious Education (NFRE)

  • There is no national syllabus for religious education.
  • SACREs may determine their own syllabus but many follow the NFRE.
  • Local authority schools normally follow the syllabus agreed by the SACRE. (LEAs can legally ignore the advice of their SACRE.)
  • Faith schools may do as they wish. Many C of E faith schools follow the SACRE syllabus. Many new faith schools do not.

Please click here to download a copy of the NFRE produced by The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in 2004.

Our primary concern is to ensure that RE involves teaching about belief systems, religious and non-religious, it should not involve teaching or instructing in any specific religion.

The beliefs of the non-religious should have equal place to the beliefs of the religious and we must argue against promotion of "the god assumption" that is common in the corporate acts of worship and RE forced on all schools by the Education Act.

No RE in schools?

Some atheists/secularists believe that RE should not be taught in schools.

Our view is that it would be impossible to understand the world around us, its literature, its art, its history and its problems, without being taught about religions and what is done in their name.

We may have no need for a god, but we appreciate great religious music and architecture - we are not advocating ignorance - we are promoting informed choice."

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