Christians express concern over religious education in schools

Christians have voiced concern after an Ofsted report this week found that Christianity is not being taught properly in schools.

The report warned that “many primary and secondary schools visited did not pay sufficient attention to the progressive and systematic investigation of the core beliefs of Christianity”.

It said that pupils were being left “confused” by RE lessons and that greater attention was being paid to the religious experiences of children belonging to other faiths than to Christian pupils.

“Insufficient attention was paid to diversity within the Christian tradition and to pupils who were actively engaged in Christian practice,” the report stated. “Often, their experience was ignored and they had limited opportunity to share their understanding. This sometimes contrasted sharply the more careful attention paid to the experiences of pupils from other religious traditions.”

The report was compiled by inspectors who visited nearly 200 state-funded non-faith schools from 2006 to 2009 and attended the RE lessons.

The Church of England’s chief education officer, the Rev Jan Ainsworth, said Ofsted’s findings on RE were of “particular concern”. She said they suggested that “in too many schools, the faith held by the majority of people in this country is not being properly taught in an in-depth way”.

She said: “Getting to grips with key teachings of Jesus and other core elements of Christianity are building blocks that will help young people analyse and interpret the society they are growing up in, whether they choose to share that belief or not.”

The former Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nasir-Ali, said that Christianity should be not just the main faith that is taught, but also the faith that provides “the framework for everything else that is taught in RE”.

“The study of the different faiths should not be just a smorgasbord of interesting rituals and feasts but Christian faith should provide the vantage point of studying them with sympathy and attention but also critically,” he said.

He called for RE to teach people more about the nature of religious experience and address questions of “meaning, purpose and destiny”.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of Christian Concern For Our Nation, warned that the whole of society would suffer if children could not understand the role of Christianity in Britain’s history and development.

“Denying children the knowledge of the Christian principles on which our country has been founded is robbing them of the chance to understand their nationality,” she said.

“Alfred the Great, the Magna Carta, Shakespeare, our legal system and many other aspects of our history and culture have all been deeply affected by Christianity and the Bible.

“Children who are confused about the basics of Christianity will be in no position to lead the future of the country.

“It’s good that Ofsted is starting to recognise the marginalisation of Christianity. There is a bias against Christianity and all of society will suffer as a result.”

Although it is a legal requirement for schools to hold collective Christian worship, many schools have replaced the traditional Christian assembly with multi-faith worship and abandoned teaching of the Lord’s Prayer.

The report comes amid widespread concern among Christians that Christianity is being marginalised in the public square, despite continuing to be the majority religion in the UK.

The Christian Institute recently published a report called Marginalising Christians in which it cites cases of Christian charities being refused public funding and of Christians being discriminated against in the media and by their employers.