Charles Clarke says schools should reform RE in favour of 'religious and moral education'

The former Labour politician has also argued for the abolition of mandatory worship

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The Independent Online

Charles Clarke has argued that RE and compulsory daily worship should be scrapped from schools.

The former Education Secretary has argued that Religious Education as it stands should be replaced with "religious and moral education".

Clarke co-authored a report - A New Settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools - as part of a Westminster Faith Debates, which posits the argument that religion and the state need to be fully separated.

"We think there is value in re-examining the post-1944 educational settlement between state and church in England in the light of contemporary belief and practices, illuminated by the latest research," the report states.

"On this basis we propose a new educational settlement which can better foster genuine understanding of modern religion and belief, and allow young people better to explore their own and other peoples’ religious and non-religious beliefs and come to their own conclusions."


He wrote: "The current requirement in statute for an act of collective worship should be abolished, and the decision about the form and character of school assemblies should be left to the governors of individual schools."

The report, which was co-authored by Lancaster University professor of politics, philosophy and religion, Linda Woodhead, also argues that the admissions processes for faith schools are unfair.

"Religious education is vitally important to help children develop the British values of tolerance, respect and understanding for others. It prepares young people for life in modern Britain and that is why it remains compulsory at all key stages. All locally agreed RE syllabuses must be broad, balanced and reflect the teaching and practices of principal religions.

"Faith schools are an important part of our diverse education system, allowing parents to choose to have their child educated in line with the tenets of a faith. Existing faith schools can choose to give priority to children of their own faith if they are oversubscribed. However, all newly created faith free schools and academies may only prioritise half their places according to faith if they are oversubscribed. Parents can rightly withdraw their children from all or any part of RE in all schools."

Clarke has previously spoken about his own religious convictions, saying that he classes himself as an agnostic.

He told The Telegraph: "I shared much of the ethical basis of Christianity but I simply couldn’t – and still can’t – believe in a Supreme Being. I call myself an agnostic, because I believe some things are unknowable."

He added: "I happen to believe that in general faith is a force for good."