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Secondary schools are 'breaking law by not offering religious education'

Pupils are left 'religiously illiterate', association claims

Rachael Revesz
Sunday 17 September 2017 15:41 BST
As more schools become academies, fewer schools might offer RE
As more schools become academies, fewer schools might offer RE (Getty)

More than a quarter of secondary schools in England are potentially breaking the law on religious education – by not offering it.

According to research by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), obtained by the BBC, 26 per cent of secondary schools do not feature religious education on the syllabus, which could leave pupils “unprepared for modern life”. The Freedom of Information data was collected in 2015 but has not been released until now.

More than a third of academies did not offer RE to pupils aged between 11 and 13, and 44 per cent of academies were not offering it to 14- to 16-year-olds.

The association has warned the issue could escalate as more secondary schools become academies, which can choose to adopt a locally-agreed syllabus or develop their own.

Fiona Moss of NATRE said too many schools were “breaking the law” and that pupils were “not religiously literate”.

“They don’t have the opportunity to learn about religions and beliefs, to learn what’s important to people or to have the chance to develop their own ideas, beliefs and values,” she told the BBC.

The main union for secondary schools countered that religion was covered in other subjects, even if it was not a specific subject on the syllabus.

“They might be teaching through conferences, they might be using citizenship lessons, they might be using assemblies,” Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the BBC.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education told The Independent: “The Government firmly believes in the importance of religious education. Good quality RE can develop children’s knowledge of the values and traditions of Britain and other countries, and foster understanding among different faiths and cultures.

“Religious education remains compulsory for all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools, at all key stages and we expect all schools to fulfil their statutory duties.”

It is up to individual schools to decide how they deliver the content of RE classes, whether providing specific RE lessons or alongside other topics.

Ofsted investigators can also report a lack of RE in the syllabus if they believe its absence helps to explain why pupils are not doing as well as they should at the school.

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