Living with Difference, the report of the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life, makes an important contribution to the growing debate over the future of religious education. The Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) and the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) are thankful to the Commission for this important report.
We are delighted that the report celebrates the role that religious education plays in preparing pupils for life in Modern Britain. We note that the report calls for religious education to be accorded the same status as other humanities subjects, and for consideration for it to be included within the English Baccalaureate: these would be important steps and we support the Commission in these recommendations.
It is important that the report is so clear in emphasizing the essential nature of religious education as the “best and earliest chance of breaking down ignorance and developing individuals who will be receptive of the other, and ask difficult questions without fear of offending”, and we applaud the report’s recognition that good religious education is “vital … for a fairer, more cohesive society”.
We are particularly pleased that the Commission has made recommendations relating to the recruitment, training and continuing professional development of teachers of RE, with a “massive recruitment and retraining programme for teachers of education about religion and belief”, and that a similar attention to religious education in primary initial teacher training as is given to reading and maths. We call on the Government to take note of these recommendations and hope to work with them to implement them.
Chief Executive of the Religious Education Council for England and Wales (REC), Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, says:
‘For too long religious education has been treated as a Cinderella subject. Too often it is under-resourced and squeezed in the timetable. As the report highlights, RE plays a vital role in preparing children for life in modern Britain and the subject should be accorded the status it deserves alongside other humanities subjects.
‘The Government must act to secure high quality, academically rigorous, and personally inspiring religious education for all pupils; and the RE Council will offer all possible support to achieve that end.’
Chair of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), Daniel Hugill, says:
‘I am delighted that yet another report has highlighted that the need for high quality education in religion and belief has never been greater. A knowledge-rich and critical Religious Education helps to secure the crucial religious literacy of pupils that is surely vital for life in modern Britain not to say the world.
‘I join this report in calling for the type of robust initial teacher training provision that ensures teachers from infant to secondary school are prepared to teach this very important subject to the young people of our country.
‘NATRE members would like to see Government ministers’ warm supportive statements backed with action to ensure Religious Education in secondary schools is subject to the same robust accountability measures as those subjects privileged by their inclusion in the EBacc.’
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National Association of Teachers of RE
NATRE is the subject teacher association for RE professionals in primary and secondary schools and higher education, providing a representative voice at national level and publications and courses to promote professional development. NATRE’s Executive consists of a majority of serving teachers from primary and secondary schools who are elected for a three-year term of service.
Religious Education Council of England and Wales
Established in 1973, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) brings together over 60 national organisations. These comprise academic and professional associations specialising in religions and religious education, as well as individual religions and belief organisations inclusive of the range of faith communities found nationally, including the British Humanist Association.