Religious teaching to be reviewed: Moral Values: The White Paper on education proposes one of the biggest transfers of responsibility since the 1944 Act

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The Independent Online
A RENEWED effort to improve religious and moral education is promised by the White Paper.

John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, has made it plain since he took over the job in April that he believes schools have an important role to play in developing children's good behaviour.

He has already invited the National Curriculum Council to look at ways of enhancing spiritual and moral education - a proposal which David Pascall, the council's chairman, has taken up with enthusiasm.

The White Paper goes a step further, by proposing to require local education authorities to review their agreed religious education syllabuses within a specified time limit.

Since the Education Reform Act in 1988, only a third of authorities have undertaken such a review, even though the Act significantly sharpened the obligations on schools to incorporate spiritual and moral education.

Those reviews are normally carried out by a local advisory council, whose members are drawn from the churches, local teacher associations, and the local authority.

Opted-out schools are able to send one representative to the committee. As more schools opt out, eventually outnumbering local authority schools, they will be able to create their own separate committee to agree local religious education syllabuses.

The White Paper says: 'Proper regard should continue to be paid to the nation's Christian heritage and traditions in the context of both the religious education and collective worship provided in schools, while offering opportunities for the worship of other faiths in a context of mutual understanding and respect.'

It adds: 'Education cannot and must not be value-free . . .

'At the heart of every school's educational and pastoral policy and practice should lie a set of shared values which is promoted through the curriculum, through expectations governing the behaviour of pupils and staff and through day-to-day contact between them.'