Schools neglect of Religious Education ‘dangerous’

The Board of Deputies has warned that failures in teaching religious education in English schools is a “dangerous” trend.

An Ofsted report on RE published this week said that many pupils were leaving with “scant” knowledge and understanding.

RE is compulsory in non-religious schools, where pupils are required to learn about Christianity and other principal religions in the UK, including Judaism.

Laura Marks, the Board’s senior vice-president, said it was “trendy in many non-faith schools to dismiss RE as irrelevant. Yet, if the 20th century was shaped by competing political ideologies, then the 21st century looks set to be shaped by differing religious beliefs.

“The very moment Ofsted has exposed that schools have lost interest in teaching about religion is the very moment — regardless of our personal beliefs — we need our children to understand more about religion. This trend is not simply wrong, it is dangerous and counter-productive.”

Ofsted found that teaching of RE was “less than good” in six out of 10 primary schools visited — and was “only good or better” in just under half of secondary schools.

It said that changes in education policy were having “a negative impact” on the subject.

The Board, along with other representatives of religious groups, has previously criticised the exclusion of RE from subjects which count towards the English Baccalaureate.

A spokesman for the Council of Christians and Jews said it was “disappointed with the Ofsted findings.

“We strongly believe that incorporating religious education into a school’s curriculum will ultimately enable students to become more tolerant of others’ religious beliefs, faith and culture,” he said.

Last updated: 8:45pm, October 10 2013