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Education – Religious education

August 2016

Religious education in schools is set to be overhauled after a new, high-profile, independent commission was established.

The Commission on Religious Education (CRE) will have a remit to make wide-ranging recommendations, as it reviews the legal, education and policy frameworks for religious education in all primary schools, secondary schools and further education colleges in England.

One of the issues it will cover is how the government’s plans to make all schools into academies, as part of its programme of educational reform, will affect religious education.

It is already believed the academies will have severe implications for Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education. The CRE will review this challenge along with the broader education and policy issues that affect religious education. It aims to improve the quality and rigour of religious education and its capacity to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.

Commissioners include Rev. Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster; Samira Ahmed, journalist and broadcaster; Esther Deans MBE, humanities KS4 lead at Malmesbury School; Dame Helen Hyde, head of Watford Grammar School for Girls and commissioner on the National Holocaust Commission; Professor Eleanor Nesbitt, emeritus professor in religions and education at the University of Warwick; and Dr Anthony Towey, director of the Aquinas Centre for Theological Literacy at St Mary’s University, among others.

The evidence-gathering process will start this autumn and last for two years, with a final report expected in mid-2018. The commission has been established by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales.

Dr John Hall, chairman of the CRE, said: ‘Religion is a powerful force for good in our world, and the perversion of it a powerful force for evil. If our society and our world are to benefit from the good and to avoid the evil, it is vital that children develop religious literacy and come to understand religious perceptions and motivations.

‘They need to learn about their own religious or non-religious beliefs, and practices and attitudes, and learn to respect those of their fellow human beings. So religious education is an important, but often underrated, part of the school curriculum’.

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