Tagged: RE

Teenage atheists, and the girl who worried about me

RE teacher Mr Thingummybob got our mailing last September, suggesting that they might not have included humanism and secular world views in RE yet, as they’re supposed to – I helped to devise a new syllabus that was introduced in September 2007. As Year 10 don’t do any RE, though they’re supposed to, he has a cunning plan; ask me and a bunch religious speakers in for a morning for a RE “carousel”, where we each talk to four of six groups for 50 minutes at a time. Strictly speaking, that’s tick box RE. Anyhow, I said I would, and told him where to find some speakers from the minority faiths.

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I am writing to express my disappointment at the new draft guidance produced for RE in England, particularly its failure to make it clear that the subject should be the study of both religious and non-religious beliefs and to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

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.