Influencing the syllabuses for religious education in schools
RE is a statutory requirement in all schools, but not part of the National Curriculum. The syllabuses in each Local Authority are written by their Standing Councils for Religious Education (SACREs) which also oversee their implementation. A number of members of Greater Manchester Humanists are representatives on several of the Greater Manchester SACREs. Five of them (Manchester, Salford, Trafford, Stockport and Tameside) collaborate in a syllabus written by the editorial team of the RE teacher’s professional journal ‘RE Today’. This syllabus provides many opportunities to introduce Humanist and non-religious perspectives. Rob Grinter, with the assistance of the main editor of ‘RE Today’ and Humanists UK’s Head of Education, has written an 80 page ‘Humanist Supplement’ to help and encourage RE teachers to implement these opportunities. Oldham SACRE also has a Humanist rep. and a syllabus permeated with Humanist perspectives.
All our Humanist SACRE reps will use their influence to encourage teachers to make the best use of these opportunities to strengthen the beliefs and values of young people without religious faith, and help build community cohesion. Fortunately we know that an increasing number of teachers at all age levels are looking for ways of incorporating Humanist perspectives into their existing teaching on the same terms as for faith traditions.
We have contacts interested in becoming Humanist reps in two of the other 10 Greater Manchester Local Authorities, Bury and Rochdale, but unfortunately none as yet in Bolton or Wigan. We are working with Humanists UK to gain representation in all 10 LEAs so that non-religious parents would then have someone to represent their children’s needs and influence the RE syllabus review. Details of what is involved are available from firstname.lastname@example.org A GMH power point presentation is available to introduce Humanism to SACRE members where this would be helpful.
Academies and Faith Schools
Many Local Authority schools are becoming Academies with freedom to interpret the National Curriculum in their own way. They will not have to follow their Local Agreed Syllabus. However, many Manchester schools will continue to do so because of its professional quality.
But Faith schools (and this includes many Roman Catholic Schools) are very unlikely to teach either the ‘multi-faith’ education that is in the SACRE syllabuses, or Humanist perspectives. This implies a growing degree of indoctrination, which we can only hope many young people will rebel against.
For more about this see our paper entitled “Religious Discrimination in the School System”.