Ministers insist on Christian education

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The Independent Online
MINISTERS have overturned proposals from their advisers and insisted Christianity must be emphasised in new national religious education syllabuses.

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, is under attack both from liberals, who fear alienating other faiths, and traditionalists who say Christianity should be given greater predominance.

Three Conservative MPs will meet him today to argue Christianity should take up three-quarters of RE lessons and the youngest children should not be taught about other faiths. The new syllabuses are out in a fortnight.

At a meeting before Christmas, the syllabus monitoring group set up by the Government, agreed not to specify the amount of time to be devoted to Christianity. However, Mr Patten said examples of the way the timetable might be divided must be included to meet the legal requirement that lessons should be 'mainly Christian'. They changed the final report to recommend that at least half the time should be devoted to Christianity.

Five- to seven-year-olds should spend a further 25 per cent of time on one other faith. For seven- to 11-year-olds a third faith should be added but schools can spend 88 per cent of their time on Christianity.

Two more faiths should be added at 14 and a final one for 16-year-olds so that Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and Judaism have all been studied.

Dilip Kadowdwala, the Hindu representative on the group, said yesterday: 'We have agreed to these changes with a heavy heart. We are only asking for equality . . . in a country which is a democracy where other faiths make an important contribution.'

Lady Olga Maitland, the Tory MP, said: 'Ninety-five per cent of the population adheres to Christianity. I don't think half the time on Christianity is enough.'