In my last blog post, I said I believed RE had turned a corner, but there was much work still to do. The RE Council is in good heart, and the work continues, as the examples below illustrate:
- The RE Council has been asked by the Prime Minister’s new Holocaust Commission to provide evidence to inform the report it is due to make by the end of the year. Member bodies will be notified about this. Apparently, the Commission was referred to us as a good organisation to touch base with!
- A very positive meeting of representatives of many organisations was held on 23 January to begin taking forward Recommendation 4 of the RE Review on regional training hubs.
- There was an equally good evidence-gathering session by the RE APPG, chaired by Fiona Bruce MP on 27 January, towards the report being prepared by the APPG on the contribution of RE to community relations.
- Work has been done on the RE PD Portal and the RE Council website, and work continues to promote the Young Ambassadors and Quality Mark projects.
- The RE Council Board meets on 5 February to build the Review into its strategic plan and make important decisions on the formation of the RE ESAG and a new Qualifications Committee. Do keep an eye on these two initiatives as they take forward the work on the national Curriculum Framework for RE in parallel to the National Curriculum implementation and the review of GCSE Religious Studies.
Full details of all these can be found in our newsletters and on the website. The AGM of the Council takes places in Cardiff on 7 May, and our Welsh member bodies in arranging this have given us every help and cooperation. There will be an address from the Welsh Minister of Education. One of the issues we want to explore this year is how far the RE bodies in our various UK countries can cooperate with each other.
Times for RE are still tough, however, despite the immense activity and commitment of the REC officers, staff and member bodies. I fear that our battle to save the RE PGCE bursaries for 2014-5 may have been lost. I have not yet had confirmation of this from Mrs Truss, to whom I have written again, but I find my usual optimism is lacking at present.
Whilst we can see our way through this financial year, we have an urgent need to ensure our funding for 2014-5. Here, my optimism remains high – the Board is recommending a new subscription system to the AGM in Cardiff in May which should produce a higher income to help cover more of our core costs. I find that a number of organisations are realising how significant the work of the RE Council has become and am hopeful that some of them will be willing to help fund the work of the RE Council at a higher level next year.
Talking of working together, there has been a widespread and genuine welcome to the RE Review report published last October. A small number of people, however, have voiced criticism of both the process and the outcome of the Review – for example, the reference to worldviews, especially humanism, in the national Curriculum Framework for RE. The RE Council welcomes positive criticism when it is based on genuine knowledge and understanding. When this is not the case with all our critics then we try to correct any false impressions. Should you come across such criticism please be assured it is from a small and unrepresentative minority (though some have parliamentary connections which tends to exaggerate the significance of their criticism). The Catholic Education Service, the Church of England Board of Education and the Muslim Council of Britain, to mention but a few of our member bodies, remain firmly behind the Review. It is important to remember that the Review was an RE Council project, not funded by government, which could not possibly command the total agreement of all members of our member bodies. It is the outcome of as consultative a process as our funding allowed, and authorised by the RE Council Board. The Review lays the foundation for further work by the RE Council working in partnership with the Department for Education, who have also welcomed the Review, and with member bodies and others. Arguing well into 2014 about something that is now over and complete seems counter-productive and is potentially damaging to RE.
I end on a note I have used many times before – it is vital that all those who want to see good quality RE for all our young people in all our schools work together and remain united. RE has enough problems without those who champion it publicly criticising each other. I therefore invite all our critics to join us at the RE Council and work with us in improving RE for the sake of all our children and our society. Are they up for this?