RE should be changed to include non-religious beliefs and worldviews, says new report


Religious Education in England's schools should be rebranded as 'Religion and Worldviews,' according to a major new report.

Under recommendations from the Commission on Religious Education, the traditional RE class should be adapted to include non-religious views like atheism, agnosticism, humanism and secularism alongside lessons on the major faiths.

The report's authors warn that unless RE adapts, the subject could disappear from schools altogether.

'RE needs rejuvenating if it is to continue to make its important contribution, indeed if it is not to wither on the vine,' writes Commission Chairman, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster and former chief education officer for the Church of England, in his foreword to the report.

Dr Hall said that at present, the quality of RE in many schools was 'inadequate in enabling pupils to engage deeply with the worldviews they will encounter'.

Other recommendations include providing better training for RE teachers and making the subject statutory across publicly funded schools.

Dr Hall argued that RE needs to be adapted to help young people understand the 'diverse society' they are growing up in.

'Young people today are growing up in a wonderfully diverse society,' he said. 'Day by day they can encounter different cultures and worldviews, if not personally at least through the media.

'So it has never been more important for people to understand the main traditions of faith and belief and the wide variety of worldviews.'

The Church of England's Chief Education Officer, Nigel Genders called the report 'timely' and said the changes were 'vital' in the face of declining numbers of schoolchildren taking RE at GCSE and A-level.

'Today, most people's experience of religion and belief is national and global, so we support the move away from a local determination of the subject,' he said. 'We believe this will help pupils make sense of religion and belief as it is lived today and this proposed change is educationally valid and would bring RE into line with all other curriculum subjects.'

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, also welcomed the findings. He said: 'A change of name to 'Religion and Worldviews' shows that this is a broader subject than the study of religion; it is about the different ways that people see and make sense of the world.'

The Catholic Education Service disagreed, however, warning that the subject was at risk of being watered down.

'This report is not so much an attempt to improve RE as to fundamentally change its character,' a spokesman said, according to The Telegraph

'The proposed name change to include 'worldviews' means that the scope of the subject is now so wide and nondescript that it would potentially lose all academic value and integrity.

'As we have always maintained, the quality of Religious Education is not improved by teaching less religion.'

Research has found a decline in the number of schools offering Religious Education, with recent research suggesting that over a quarter of England's secondary schools do not provide any RE lessons despite the law requiring it.