Schools 'marginalise' religious education

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The Independent Online
A STRONG warning to schools to improve the quality and amount of religious education was made yesterday by the Government's adviser on the curriculum, writes Ngaio Crequer.

David Pascall, chairman of the National Curriculum Council, and a devout Christian, said it was clear to him 'that the Government's intention to strengthen RE through the Education Reform Act is not being achieved in all schools.'

He said nearly 50 years after the 1944 Act made RE a statutory requirement, two-thirds of primary school children received little or no observable teaching in the subject. 'Even when they are taught RE between the ages of 11 and 13, it is only too often for a mere half an hour a week. By my calculations, that means that an alarming number of children could be receiving something like 50 hours of RE in their whole school life.'

Religious education is a statutory part of the national curriculum but syllabuses are drawn up locally. Mr Pascall told the Association of Religious Education Advisers and Inspectors, meeting at Keele University that the subject should be resourced and allocated time in the same way as any other foundation subject.

It was a myth that there was no time or space in the curriculum to 'fit in' RE. He had heard that a number of secondary schools had taken time away from RE to cover history and geography. But that was not the intention of the ERA. A 'reasonable time' should be given to all subjects. 'I would remind schools that four years after the Education Reform Act is rather late to be thinking about RE provision.'

Some schools refused to allocate more resources because they said it was badly taught. 'Although inspection has confirmed that in many schools the standard of RE teaching is unsatisfactory, this is the very response to the problem which has resulted in the present cycle of marginalisation and poor quality.' He warned that 'if RE is being marginalised, this reflects a failure on the part of schools and local bodies to meet their responsibilities.'