We engage in a wide range of activities relating to education in Greater Manchester and surrounding areas, which can be grouped under the following headings:

  • syllabuses for Religious Education in state schools
  • promoting Humanism in schools
  • faith schools
  • providing public introductory courses on Humanism

Syllabuses for Religious Education in state schools

Every metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester is an education authority. Each has a Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) responsible for drawing up and overseeing the teaching of the local syllabus for Religious Education in state schools in the area. The RE syllabus is reviewed every five years. (Note: ‘faith’ schools may set their own syllabus, see below.)

Currently there is Humanist representation on the SACREs of about half the education authorities in England.  Generally, this is by co-option to Committee A (for representatives of faith groups other than the Church of England) though we believe that under current guidance Humanists are entitled to be full members of this committee, and in some cases they are.

The British Humanist Association and GMH are jointly campaigning to secure Humanist representation on all ten SACREs in Greater Manchester. The present position is as follows:

  • Bolton  –  no representation
  • Bury  –  no representation, but a BHA member is interested in being co-opted
  • Manchester  –  a GMH member is co-opted and has been involved for many years
  • Oldham  –  a GMH member has recently been co-opted
  • Rochdale  –  no representation, but a BHA member is being proposed for co-option
  • Salford  –   a GMH member has been proposed for consideration at the next SACRE  meeting
  • Stockport  –  a GMH member is co-opted
  • Tameside  –  no representation, but Humanists were closely involved with the most recent syllabus review
  • Trafford  –  a GMH member is a full member of Committee A
  • Wigan  –  no representation

GMH is currently seeking Humanists to join Bolton and Wigan SACREs. 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 secretary@gmh.humanist.org.uk  A GMH power point presentation is available to introduce Humanism to SACRE members where this would be helpful.

Humanism is a recommended element at Key Stage 2 and a required element at Key Stages 3 and 4 in a  collaborative syllabus adopted by five of the Greater Manchester Authorites. It will also be included at Years 11 and 12 (Key Stage 5) in ‘the broad study of religion, religions and beliefs’ stipulated in the collaborative syllabus. GMH is able to offer support and help to Humanist representatives and teachers with materials for teaching Humanism. This will not be on the same scale as the teaching of the main faiths because there is no Humanist Unit as such. However, much of the teaching will be thematic, and teachers will be looking for ways of incorporating Humanist perspectives into their existing teaching of the themes on the same terms as for faith traditions.

We have therefore prepared two 35 page booklets, ‘Humanist Perspectives in RE’, one for Key Stages 1 and 2 and one for Key Stages 3, 4, and 5. These present the Humanist stance on each of the main themes suggested for RE teaching, with a large number of suggestions for teaching approaches and learning activities for each theme. These materials are available to RE teachers as part of the ‘non-statutory guidance’ provided by the SACREs for their teachers, and in-service courses based on them have already been run successfully in one Authority. Humanism will therefore be present in the teaching of RE on the same terms as each of the faiths other than Christianity covered by the syllabus.

Promoting Humanism by visiting schools

We welcome invitations to visit individual schools in Greater Manchester and surrounding areas to talk about Humanism as a belief system. GMH members have spoken at school assemblies, participated in spiritual awareness events with representatives of faith groups, and attended conferences on issues of religion and belief, diversity and identity. We are currently doing this about three times a term and are keen to do so more frequently. We expect this activity to expand into the areas of human rights and diversity in Citizenship studies and personal well-being in PSHE.

A project currently under consideration is to assemble a small collection of books relevant to Humanism that can be hired out to schools in connection with relevant projects, for example in 2009 on Evolution and the life of Darwin.

Faith Schools

(to be completed)

Providing public introductory courses on Humanism

Exploring Humanism – An Introductory Course has been developed for public presentation. For details, contact Rob Grinter, email vice-chair-education