We need a National Plan for religious education

What kind of society would you like to live in? This is the question that we should always return when discussing education policy.

Freedom of speech, respect for the beliefs of others, the spirit of debate – these have long been pillars of British society. Teach these values explicitly in our schools and from the outset starting in the youngest years.

We want to develop twenty-first century thinkers – capable of understanding the history, present practice and nuances of different beliefs.  We want skilled intercultural navigators ready to cooperate in a global workforce, also able to build constructive relationships within their communities across religious faiths.

All these are the hallmarks of a confident, modern religious education.


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At its best, RE introduces our young people to the beliefs and ideas that have been the foundation of human society for thousands of years and continues to do so. Children learn about the fascinating stories from different traditions, as well as the basics of ethics and debates surrounding free will.

RE lesson should become increasingly precious and practical in schools – a space where young people learn to make their own informed and sensible decisions about fundamental aspects of life. RE can be a space for comfortable discussion on beliefs and important insights into students’ families, relationships and society within the framework of our long and proud heritage of informed debate.

When building a society for the future, foundations in religious education is one of our first lines of defence against the ills of ignorance, apathy and extremism.

The Minister for School Standards rightly links the subject to British values and the cohesiveness of our society.

These comments were made in relation to a question regarding the lack of funding.

Last year, the government mismanaged the RE training bursary. This important subject has received very little funding in the last five years. This must change.

Schools have been disincentivised to provide high quality RE because of adjustments to performance measures. GCSE Religious Studies was removed from the English Baccalaureate, while the RE GCSE short Course was removed from the list of subjects that earn performance point for a school. seenHis entries drop by 94%. It is wrong for this to devalue a subject important holistically.

Schools across the country continue to ignore the law and not offer a suitable RE curriculum. Only 44% of secondary schools had reached the RE curriculum time threshold as of last year.

Ofsted must work with government to prevent this from becoming a continuing problem for our children.

I have had the honor of speaking to a wide range of people about the subject during my time on various All Party Parliamentary Groups.

A minority of people see it as an inconvenience, a precious time in the school schedule taken over by ideas they believe have lost influence or significance in society.

These views are false. These comments miss the point of the subject and the belief system in Britain and worldwide.

They also clash with the public. Two-thirds of them see the importance of teaching a modern RE program.

The UK’s place in religion and belief is changing and adapting. It is not declining. Christian values, as well as those taught in the world’s great religions, play an important role in the cultural and historical makeup of our country. It is vital that our children link this learning to the country’s heritage, its future and their place within it.

What is a National Plan? Let me return to the original question by rephrasing. What sort of society don’t we want to live in? One in which young people are unable to explain their religious and nonreligious beliefs. One where our discourse is marked with intolerance, ignorance, and the antithesis of British values we rightly praise.

We leave a void in our school curriculum by neglecting religious education. It leaves young people unable to understand the moral, ethical and religious issues that affect modern Britain and the wider global community.  Put simply we miss an opportunity to provide for our youngsters a shared set of foundation values and an understanding of inter-faiths and communities which can inform and positively enhance our children’s and our society’s future.