Heads attack rules on religious education

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RULES forcing all schools to hold Christian assemblies and religious education lessons are 'dogmatic and insensitive,' a head teachers' organisation has claimed, writes Fran Abrams.

In its response to proposals on RE and collective worship, published today, the National Association of Head Teachers says there is no evidence that religion in schools helps to raise moral standards.

Parents who do not teach Christianity to their children at home have no right to expect schools to do it for them, it adds. The other main head teachers' organisation, the Secondary Heads' Association, has expressed similar views.

John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, has attached great importance to ensuring that schools comply with the law and hold a daily act of 'broadly Christian' worship. He has also ordered new syllabuses, which will ensure that RE lessons are predominantly Christian. Mr Patten criticised the head teachers' stance yesterday and said that priests, rabbis and mullahs should get involved in taking school assemblies.

'I like to talk about values - about love, the family and right and wrong. It is part of the Christian heritage of our country that we have traditionally enabled our children to learn about these things within a Christian framework,' he said.

David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said there were no signs that countries like France and the US, where religion had no place in schools, had lower moral standards.