A report on religious education by an influential body on religious instruction in schools in England and Wales has been criticised as “unrepresentative” and “inadequate” by a leading Catholic group.
The Catholic Union of Great Britain made the comments in reference to the Religious Education Council Report after a meeting between religious organisations and parliamentarians at the Palace of Westminster today.
The meeting consisted of those representing the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Free Church faiths.
“Very few mainstream faith groups were properly consulted for this report and yet it claims to be representative and to influence the RE curriculum”, said James Bogle, Vice-Chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.
“Clearly the minister, Michael Gove, was misled into thinking otherwise, since he claims that it has been endorsed widely. As our meeting today shows, that is not so and there is considerable dissent from the report’s view.”
“The 1944 Education Act and the Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education have provided an excellent framework for providing an education that families and communities can support and that promotes harmony and tolerance,” said Mr Bogle, “yet, without properly consulting the statutory bodies, this report claims to speak for mainstream faith communities whilst largely excluding them.”
The new working group will be producing an alternative report to submit to the All Party Parliamentary Group which will receive it in the New Year.
The new report is expected to say that Religious Education must be informed by the actual faith and practice of faith communities and should not be confused with a museum or “gold-fish bowl” approach that looks at religion as one might look at animals in a zoo rather looking at religion as a living faith.
“Religion is fundamental to the development of a young person’s culture and identity, their character and their ability to relate to others and wider society” said Mr Bogle.
He added “those who think that secular humanism is simply a neutral approach to religion overlook the fact that secularism is, itself, a belief system. To impose this belief-system upon faith communities is neither tolerant, nor respectful, nor just. Moreover, religious education is not merely religious studies.”
The new working group expects to produce an interim report in the New Year and then, later, a final report. The group will also be writing to the Secretary of State to express its dissatisfaction with the Religious Education Council’s report.