Letter: Religious teaching in Gateshead

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The Independent Online
Sir: A reference made to Gateshead in an article ('Habgood attacks quality of schools' religious teaching', 30 June) following a national religious education conference was most unfair.

As the headline suggests, the article criticised the quality of religious education in schools. The Archbishop of York was quoted as saying that in Gateshead one local adviser wanted older children to devise their own religion and rewrite the Ten Commandments, while five-year-olds should celebrate a Buddhist festival. These claims cannot be substantiated from the Agreed Syllabus.

In fact, in Gateshead the council is proud of achievements in this field. An Agreed Syllabus for religious education and a 400-page handbook have been produced under the guidance and scrutiny of the Standing Advisory Council. They were subjected to wide consultation before publication.

The Standing Advisory Council has input from the Christian denominations as well as representatives from other faiths. It also has the professional voice of teachers and staff from the education department. The councillors who are members are practising Christians, and one is a lay reader in the Anglican church.

Indeed, the syllabus and handbook have been so well received that our specialist adviser for religious education is about to embark on a series of presentations to other local education authorities and to a national conference.

Yours faithfully,

J. D. ARBON

Director of Education

Gateshead Metropolitan

Borough Council

Gateshead, Tyne & Wear

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