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Religious Education in England A short History


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Title: Religious Education in England A short History

Religious Education in England A short History
  • Paul Hopkins

In this seminar I will...
  • Look at RE in England (not the whole UK)
  • Look at the historical background
  • Examine the relationship between church and
  • Discuss the place of RE and how it is organised
    and supported
  • Look at the new National Framework for RE
  • Offer some aims and purposes for RE

The historical background I
  • Origins
  • First schools founded by the church e.g.
    Canterbury 598 or St.Peters York, 625
  • 1833 first government grant for schools (1847 for
    Roman Catholic schools)
  • 1870 education act, board schools later county
  • 1902 allowed schools to be paid for locally
  • RE exists as scripture and is very confessional

The historical background II
  • The 1944 Act
  • The 1944 act made the state the main provider of
    secondary schools.
  • The church still funded many primary though this
    reduces as the century goes on
  • Religious Instruction is made a compulsory part
    of the curriculum
  • The 1944 act gave support for the training of and
    provision of classroom materials for religion

  • There is, I think, a general recognition that
    even if parents themselves have in the course of
    life encountered difficulties that have led them
    into doubts and hesitations they do desire that
    their children shall have a grounding in the
    principles of the Christian faith as it ought to
    be practiced in this country
  • Secretary of Education, 1944

The historical background III
  • The 1950s -1960s
  • Religious Instruction / Knowledge was still often
    confessional and the curriculum almost
    exclusively Christian in nature
  • Ironically RI / RK was the only compulsory
    subject - but also the only one that parents
    could withdraw their pupils from!
  • Immigration from former colonies brought
    multi-faith communities to the UK
  • The amount of time given to RE varied across the
    country and their is a shortage of specialist
  • Church attendance is dropping and a growth of
    secularism attacks RI / RK teaching as

  • Too often in the past we have tried to hand out
    theological answers to children before they had
    time to think about the questions. In discussions
    based on their life and experience the
    fundamental questions become real. It then
    appears that religion in general and Christianity
    in particular are not as irrelevant as thought
    and that committal to a way of life is essential
    to human experience
  • LEA syllabus, 1966

The historical background IV
  • The 1970s and early 1980s
  • Continued immigration changes the nominal
    Christian nature of many inner city communities
    and world religions start to appear on
  • A report the 4th R 1970 argues for Religious
    Education not Religious Instruction, for county
    advisers and for a minimum of 2 hours a week for
    the subject
  • A rejection of confessional RE and an interest in
    phenomenology, of objectivity and of a critical

  • If RE teachers could adapt the attitude of a
    shopkeeper with wares in the window which they
    are anxious for customers to examine, appreciate
    and even try on but not feel any obligation to
    buy then many of the educational problems
    associated with RE would disappear.
  • Michael Grimmitt, 1978

The historical background V
  • The Education reform act 1988
  • RE continues to be compulsory (alongside 10
    others) but is not part of the new National
  • Introduces the term religious education as the
    subject name.
  • RE is to be determined locally (everything else
    is determined nationally) and the Standing
    Advisory Councils on RE are set up
  • The Christian lobby Anglican bishops in the
    upper chamber of parliament hijack the act to
    enforce Christianity as the core of RE teaching

  • The 1988 education act requires all syllabuses to
    reflect the fact that religious traditions in the
    UK are in the main Christian while taking account
    of the teachings and practices of the other
    principle religions in the UK
  • Religious Education in schools should seek to
    develop pupils knowledge, understanding and
    awareness of Christianity as the predominant
    religion in the UK and the other principle
    religions represented in the country to
    encourage respect for those holding different
    beliefs and to help pupils spiritual, moral,
    cultural and social development.

The historical background VI
  • The 1990s to the present
  • RE is now seen as multi-faith the big 6 and
    wider religion and belief
  • A range of new pedagogical ideas are challenging
    classroom practice
  • The subject is strong in research terms at
    university and with the Farmington Trust, there
    are currently 7 professors of Religious
  • Support given means that Religious Education in
    the 5-11 sector sees steady improvement
  • The introduction of new (Short Course)
    examinations is very effective in stimulating
    teachers for 14-16 age group and leads to a
    growth in the take-up of RE post 16 see
  • The model syllabuses were introduced to guide
    curriculum development and introduced the terms
    learning about and learning from and an 8
    level assessment scale (similar to tother
    subjects) is introduced
  • Circular 1/94 currently under revision
    determines the ground rules for RE and paves
    the way for the development of a framework
  • RE is charged working within the wider framework
    to promote community cohesion and the prevent

  • Yet even in a time when the tattered remains of
    an ancient interpretative system are all that is
    left to most people, it is clear that religious
    experience still appears with extraordinary
  • BJRE, Vol 16, Number 1
  • RE is to develop pupils knowledge, understanding
    and awareness of Christianity, as the
    pre-dominant religion in the UK and the other
    principle religions represented in the country
    to encourage respect for those holding different
    beliefs and to promote spiritual, moral,
    cultural and moral development.
  • Circular 1/94, 1994

The National Framework
  • This is aimed at SACREs when they revise their
    syllabus (every 5 years) and is as close to
    national curriculum orders that RE has,
    non-statutory guidance for a statutory subject
    (QCA website)
  • To establish an entitlement to RE for all
    students, this is necessary for their development
    as adults
  • To establish standards expectations for learning
    and attainment, encourages assessment for
    learning, and target setting
  • To promote continuity and coherence So that RE
    progresses and develops from age 5 to age 19
  • To promote public understanding of the work of
    RE in schools - not least that it is not moral or
    social education though it contributes to these
  • To encourage respect for all REs vital role in
    preparing pupils for a multi-ethnic / multi-faith
    / secular society

The future ????
  • Where are things going
  • There is a strong move to get RE into the
    National Curriculum, the government has talked
    about Curriculum Reform in late 2010
  • There are a growing number of Academies which
    have a religious focus these schools can set
    their own syllabuses to a greater or lesser
  • The New Secondary Curriculum has impacted on how
    RE is taught and timetabled in some schools
    this cross-curricularisation may impact more in
    the future
  • The non-implementation of the revised primary
    curriculum leaves RE in primary schools in an
    uncertain place
  • There are moves at a European Level to raise the
    awareness of religion and inter-cultural

Types of schools I
Types of schools II
The place of RE 5-11 years
The place of RE 5-11 years
The Rose report 2009
6 areas of learning
The place of RE 11-14 years
The place of RE 14-16 years
The place of RE 16-19 years
How is RE organised I
  • Each school must have a syllabus for Religious
  • Each schools can develop its own curriculum from
    guidance by
  • The Standing Advisory Committee on Religious
    Education from the Local Authority (local
  • The local diocese (Church schools)
  • Any existing syllabus (state Schools)
  • Academies may develop their own syllabus

How RE is organised II
How is RE is supported
Some Aims for RE I
  • RE can be an important contributor the personal
    development of pupils allowing them to develop
    their own beliefs and values and to consider the
    thoughtfully those of others
  • RE can provide an academic and rigourous way of
    understanding the world(s) in which we live,
    introducing pupils to the concepts of rituals,
    ceremonies, symbols and lifestyles (and
    understood and demonstrated by religious groups
    alive and past)

Some Aims for RE II
  • RE can help develop critical thinking and skills
    of communication and expression, providing a
    religious literacy for dealing with questions and
  • RE can offer pupils a chance to reflect on the
    ultimate questions of their existence and to the
    answers given by the religions
  • stimulate interfaith dialogue and promote an
    interface between the sacred and the spiritual

RE Nature and Aims
  • RE as induction into community and culture
  • RE as the liberal study of religion
  • RE as an agent of humanisation

How good is RE? Primary I
  • Inspection report 2010 - Transforming Religious
  • Pupils achievement in RE in the 94 primary
    schools visited was broadly similar to that
    reported in 2007. It was good or outstanding in
    four out of 10 schools and was inadequate in only
    one school.
  • The reliance on a narrow curriculum model in
    primary schools based on RE being delivered in
    half-termly units taught weekly, often inhibited
    sustained learning in the subject and limited the
    opportunities to link the subject to other areas
    of the curriculum.
  • There were a number of specific weaknesses in the
    teaching about Christianity. Many primary and
    secondary schools visited did not pay sufficient
    attention to the progressive and systematic
    investigation of the core beliefs of
  • At Key Stage 2, effective RE extended pupils
    ability to undertake sustained independent
    enquiries into religion and belief. In the best
    lessons, pupils were able to take key concepts of
    the subject, such as belief or myth, develop
    their own questioning and enquiry, investigate
    specific examples and relate these to their own
    ideas. They were able to evaluate different
    points of view sensibly. In the best cases,
    pupils at the end of Key Stage 2 showed
    considerable confidence in handling sophisticated
    ideas and arguments about matters to do with
    belief and practice.

How good is RE? Secondary I
  • Inspection report 2010 - Transforming Religious
  • Students achievement in RE in the secondary
    schools visited showed a very mixed picture. It
    was good or outstanding in 40 of the 89 schools
    visited but was inadequate in 14 schools.
  • There has been a continuing rise in the numbers
    taking GCSE and A- and AS-level examinations in
    RE. Some concerns remain, however, about the
    quality of much of the learning that takes place
    in GCSE short courses.
  • Most of the secondary schools in the survey with
    sixth forms did not fully meet the statutory
    requirement to provide core RE for all students
    beyond the age of 16.
  • RE made a positive contribution to key aspects of
    pupils personal development, most notably in
    relation to the understanding and appreciation of
    the diverse nature of our society. However, the
    subjectís contribution to promoting pupils
    spiritual development was often limited.
  • The contribution of RE to the promotion of
    community cohesion was a strength of the subject
    in most of the schools visited. However, there is
    scope to extend the opportunities within the
    curriculum to enrich pupils learning through
    greater use of fieldwork and contacts with
    religious and belief groups in the local

How good is RE? Secondary II
  • Inspection report 2010 - Transforming Religious
  • There is uncertainty among many teachers of RE
    about what they are trying to achieve in the
    subject resulting in a lack of well-structured
    and sequenced teaching and learning, substantial
    weaknesses in the quality of assessment and a
    limited use of higher order thinking skills to
    promote greater challenge.
  • Where RE was most effective, it used a range of
    enquiry skills such as investigation,
    interpretation, analysis, evaluation and
    reflection. However, this use is not yet defined
    clearly enough or integrated effectively within
    guidance to schools and, as a result, is not
    embedded sufficiently into classroom practice.
  • There were significant inconsistencies in the way
    humanism and other non- religious beliefs were
    taught, and some uncertainties about the
    relationship between fostering respect for
    pupilsí beliefs and encouraging open, critical,
    investigative learning in RE.
  • The revised Key Stage 3 secondary curriculum,
    introduced in September 2008, was having a
    negative impact on RE provision in about a third
    of the 30 secondary schools surveyed in 2008ñ09,
    particularly in Year 7. Too often the impact of
    these changes was not being monitored effectively.

How good is RE? Secondary III
  • Inspection report 2010 - Transforming Religious
  • Where achievement at Key Stage 3 was good,
    students made increasingly sophisticated use of
    interpretation, investigation, analysis and
    evaluation when undertaking enquiries into
    religion and belief. Through a careful balance
    and integration of the work across the two areas
    of attainment, learning about and learning
    from religion, they were able to offer their own
    ideas on what they encountered and to engage with
    significant issues. In these cases, the students
    responded enthusiastically to the challenge of
    the learning and used a range of media to
    communicate their findings and responses. Their
    work was of particularly high quality where they
    were encouraged to think for themselves and to
    challenge each others views when considering
    beliefs and values, or when exploring the links
    between belief and practice
  • In the schools where examination results were
    good, the students were often given the
    opportunity to focus on important questions
    related to religious, philosophical, ethical and
    social issues

Examined RE at 16
  • I do not believe in God but still enjoy RE. I
    like learning about other peoples faiths Glenn,
  • I think religion is the essence of a persons
    life so its good to know about everyones
    religion. My religion is the backbone of my life
    so it interests me how others answer everyday
    problems and what views and beliefs they have
    Farim, 15
  • In RE I have learnt about ethics and how to
    approach moral decisions, I like discussion in RE
    as this helps me appreciate other peoples views
    Jessica, 16
  • RE tackles the most important questions in life
    and so is the most important subject Jonathan,
  • I like RE because I like to know why other people
    believe in their God Hannah, 9
  • RE begins the process of you thinking ... because
    it adds a deeper dimension to life Surjit, 14

Religious Education in England
Thank-you Questions