Children’s Commissioner for England Stresses the Importance of Religious Education in Schools

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Photo: Twitter - Dame Rachel de Souza

According to Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, there is a need for better support of religious education in schools. 

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Speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Religious Education Council (REC), de Souza stressed the importance of the subject, saying that religious education (RE) is “the one place in the curriculum” where young people can discuss their “philosophical, religious, and moral” questions.

De Souza’s comments come as concerns grow about the state of RE in schools. The subject is not currently included in the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), which is the government’s benchmark for academic achievement. As a result, many schools have cut back on RE teaching in recent years, leading to a decline in the quality of education in this area.

In her statement, she said:  “Children have told me that they want school to be the place where they can learn about life skills, relationships, and how to set themselves up for the future. The RE curriculum is the one place that children can learn these important things.

“It provides children with a chance to understand more about the world, other cultures and religions, and also about themselves. RE helps us understand the different faiths and communities which make up modern Britain, and, crucially, RE is a place where these young people can discuss important and exciting philosophical, religious and moral conundrums in safe spaces.”

Sarah Lane Cawte, the Chair of the Religious Education Council (REC), has identified the shortage of qualified teachers as a major obstacle to providing quality religious education in schools. In an interview with Premier, Cawte revealed that only 49% of teachers in secondary schools who teach RE spend the majority of their time teaching the subject. The remaining 51% teach other subjects as their primary focus.

Cawte emphasized the importance of changing this trend, stating that the subject needs teachers who are passionate about it and equipped to inspire young people. She acknowledged the evolving nature of RE, which has progressed from its Christian origins to representing the diversity of faiths in modern Britain.

Despite these differences of opinion, it is clear that the issue of religious education in schools is an important one, and that it is likely to remain a topic of debate and discussion for some time to come. 

With the government currently reviewing the national curriculum, there is an opportunity to ensure that RE receives the support and investment that it needs to thrive in schools, and to provide young people with the knowledge and understanding that they need to navigate a diverse and complex world.

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