Tagged: Education


Ed BallsEducation Minister Ed Balls made a speech at the Institute of Directors yesterday. This is some of it:

It is now just over two years since we launched our Faith in the System document at the British Library.

It was a hugely important event.

And it came just a few months after I began this job – in fact, the speech I made then was one of the very first speeches I gave as Secretary of State.

I was very much a novice then.

I’m now a veteran – in fact, in the next few weeks, I’ll become the second longest serving Secretary of State since Kenneth Baker.

But I do believe – and I hope you all agree – that Faith in the System was a landmark document.

Fundamentalist exams on a par with A- levels


A creationist exam syllabus for evangelical Christians that orginated in Texas in the 1970s has been ruled equivalent to international A– levels by a UK government agency, despite teaching that the Loch Ness monster disproves evolution and racial segregation is beneficial.

The Times Edicational Supplement reports that –

Hundreds of teenagers at around 50 private Christian schools in Britain study for the certificates, as well as several home-educated students.

New RE guidance – what’s wrong with it

I’ve responded belatedly to the new guidance on RE, as follows:

Rt Hon Ed Balls MP
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
Department for Children, Schools and Families
Sanctuary Buildings
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3BT

Dear Mr Balls,

I am writing to express my disappointment at the new draft guidance produced for RE in England, particularly its failure to make it clear that the subject should be the study of both religious and non-religious beliefs and to recognise and recommend the eligibility of Humanists for full membership of SACREs and ASCs.

I am personally particularly affected by this. I am a Humanist and a full member of Suffolk SACRE. I am very concerned that the new guidance will lead to my position as a full member of the SACRE being seriously undermined and to a consequent lack of representation of non-religious people on the SACRE, even though my local area is at least 16% non-religious – which means there are more non-religious people than all the non-Christian religions combined. When my SACRE made me a full member, without dissent, they agreed that since our new RE syllabus (introduced in September 2007) included Humanism “and secular world views”, it would be inconsistent with this inclusion to exclude me from full membership of the SACRE. In my experience, as a frequent visitor to schools, both as a tutor with Suffolk Inter-Faith Resource and as a Humanist speaker, a majority of secondary school students identify themselves as non-believers. It is therefore especially important that the syllabus covers non-belief and its various expressions.

Free Dawkins DVD for all secondary schools

Brilliant news from the BHA

Every school in England and Wales is to receive a free DVD of ‘Growing Up in the Universe’, Professor Richard Dawkins’ 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for children. The DVD is being distributed by the British Humanist Association with funding from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species’, which both fall in 2009.

Urgent response required – extreme religion in the classroom

A few years ago, while visiting a local high school, one of the girls told me that her little sister had been told that their parents would go to hell because they were atheists. Who told her? Her primary school teacher. Did they complain? I believe they did, though I don’t know what the outcome was.

In another local primary school, a class had been doing some science about colours. The head teacher visited the classroom and was admiring a picture of a rainbow. She asked the artist where the colours came from. As the child began to explain what she’d learned about the refraction of light, the head teacher interrupted her. “No, no, no,” she said, “God did it!”

With examples like this of religious nuts imposing their beliefs on children, it’s good to know that such behaviour is generally frowned upon in state schools. Teachers who aim to make the classroom a religiously-neutral zone should be supported. However, religious bullies can make life very difficult.

In Surrey, Muslim parents who’d accused a primary school headteacher of “Islamophobia” were allowed to drive her out of her job and wreck the school’s religiously neutral ethos, while the county council “failed in its duty to protect her”, according to the High Court, who awarded £400,000 damages.

In Devon, a headteacher who reprimanded a child for suggesting that non- Christians would go to hell has been bombarded with threats against him and his family.

Religion or Belief conference report

The BHA received grant funding from the Equality and Human Rights Commission for a project which aims to increase understanding of the ‘religion or belief’ equality ‘strand’. As part of this, the third in a series of conferences was held in Birmingham on 22nd January this year. We’ve previously posted a report from the Daily Mail, which misrepresented the purpose of this work.


With her permission, here is a report on the conference from Alison Rawlinson from Coventry & Warwickshire Humanists, which was published in their newsletter. Alison attended the conference with her husband Mark.

Teaching the new RE syllabus in a Suffolk primary school

The new RE syllabus for Suffolk schools was introduced in September 2007. It includes Humanism and secular world views. The idea is that children should learn about religion and its alternatives, not to be religious, though the many church schools in the county do things differently. We’ll be visited by a teacher from a local county primary school, who’ll tell us about her approach.

I visited this school a couple of years ago to do an assembly and talk to the older children afterwards. They were very lively and open-minded.