Curriculum `to include Christian values'

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The Independent Online
John Redwood, the Secretary of State for Wales, yesterday demanded that schools return to teaching children Christian values and morality.

In an end-of-year statement that revived memories of the year's opening with the Conservatives' disastrous "back to basics" campaign, Mr Redwood complained too much time in schools was spent teaching comparative religion rather than Christianity.

A Cabinet right-winger, he attacked the Anglican church for being "reluctant to preach morality," say- ing Christmas was a good time to remember Britain was still a Christian country.

"The Anglican church may be reluctant to preach morality, but most of Britain's people still think of themselves as Christians. This is especially true in Wales, the land of Church and Chapel," Mr Redwood said.

He announced that in the new year he would instruct the curriculum authority to prepare guidelines for the revision of the religious syllabus in Welsh schools, adding "I want to signal a real strengthening of the Christian element in religious education in Wales's schools.

"Too many of our children are taught more comparative religion than Christianity." What was needed was an education that included "more of the need for a modern Christian morality" and more understanding of the past.

Children could not appreciate Shakespeare without understanding the language and ideas of the Bible and Book of Common Prayer, and the ideas behind the Reformation - which heavily influenced Britain's history - could not be understood without understanding Christian ideas and imagery.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, accused Mr Redwood of "trying to return schools to the religious prejudice and bigotry of the last century". Religious education teachers reacted with astonishment to Mr Redwood's comments, which recall the high moral tone of John Patten, a former Secretary of State for Education.

Even he was forced to disappoint evangelical Christians when the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority published models for religious education in England this summer. It spelt out that RE should be "predominantly Christian," but also insisted children should study five other religious faiths - Buddhism, Hindu, Sikhism, Judaism and Islam.

Proposals to ensure 50 per cent of RE should be about Christianity were dropped after officials recognised only the courts could determine what "predominantly Christian" meant. Welsh religious education follows broadly similar guidelines.

Mr Patten's successor, Gillian Shephard, and the Prime Minister have both sought to play down the contentious issue of religion in schools.

Jeremy Taylor, chairman of the Professional Council for Religious Education, said that Mr Redwood's remarks bore no relation to what was happening in schools and appeared to be "based on prejudice".

He added: "There is simply no evidence from education inspectors that other religions are being taught to the exclusion of Christianity."

Gavin Craigen, secretary of the Welsh Association of RE Teachers, said he knew of no evidence in Wales that religious education was "skewed" in the way Mr Redwood had suggested.

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