England and Wales risk having a generation of ‘religiously illiterate’ children, report warns


A PARLIAMENTARY group investigating the state of religious education in England and Wales paints a dismal picture of the state of RE and concludes:

Religious literacy matters for everyone. Religious Education has a vital and powerful contribution to make in equipping young people, whatever their backgrounds and personal beliefs with the skills to understand and thrive in a diverse and shifting world. The value of this contribution has not been widely recognised by policy makers. A raft of recent policies have had the effect of downgrading RE in status on the school curriculum, and the subject is now under threat as never before, just at the moment when it is needed most. This report sets out those threats, along with urgent proposals for meeting them head on.

After the report was handed over to the Government this week, Stephen Evans, campaigns manager at the National Secular Society, said:

There is a clear agenda behind moves to ‘strengthen’ RE that seeks to use schools as a place to promote religious belief generally. This parliamentary group appears to be part of a pincer movement with the C of E to pressurise the Government to strengthen the presence of religion in schools.

Those for whom religion is personally important have a tendency to overstate the importance of RE – particularly when claiming how ‘vital’ it is to community cohesion. Cohesion is best served by children and young people recognising shared values and what they hold in common. A focus on citizenship rather than religion is the most sensible way of achieving this.

He added:

It’s time we abolished the whole concept of ‘Religious Education’ which ring-fences religious beliefs for special treatment in schools, and can too easily morph into proselytisation. Instead we should absorb education about religion into a much broader ‘philosophy, ethics and citizenship’ subject that covers the whole history of ideas that have motivated and continue to motivate people, including secular and non-religious ones. Religion would still be there, but it would take its place amongst other ways of making sense of the world.

Of course, Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the group, disagrees, saying it is “essential” that pupils are taught by “experienced and trained professionals”.

It is illogical to think that we can dilute the professionalism and expertise needed to teach RE well and still have a generation of young people that understand and are sensitive to the growing levels of religious and non-religious diversity in our society.

And the Church of England said the report showed that the Education Secretary’s decision to exclude RE from the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) of core subjects was leading to it being downgraded.

The Rev Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, said:

This provides strong evidence for our continuing concern that RE is being downgraded as part of the curriculum. RE is about religious literacy for all, growing understanding of the importance of faith, especially in this country, built on Christian values, to the lives of individuals and communities. It is has never been more important than in today’s multi-faith society. We hope the report is a wake-up call for the Department for Education.

55 responses to “England and Wales risk having a generation of ‘religiously illiterate’ children, report warns”

  1. Ken says:


    i) I am not aware of a man being executed for gathering sticks for firewood, AND I have read all of Numbers 15.

    ii) For an apostate people not walking in life and peace, why shouldn’t God ‘rub their noses in the offal’ from their religious sacrifices? Mal 2 refers.

    iii) As for Exekiel (Chap 4), the prophet complained and God allowed him to use the traditional cow’s manure instead. Just three verses further on.

    You surprise me with such Victorian prudishness over the AV using a word like ‘dung’. May be earthy, but hardly vulgar. What’s the problem with it?

    What do you think a righteous God should do with the ‘priests’ in the RCC who have been sexually abusing childen and covering it up? Unconditionally forgive them, or judge and condemn them if they fail to repent and forsake their evil? Would letting them off be loving? If you think such kind of judgement serves justice, then why object to the cases of this you referred to in you post regarding other events in the OT?

  2. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    @Ken: That doesn’t answer my point. Until such time as you can offer some credible evidence that a god exists, nothing else matters.

    I couldn’t give a monkeys either way about the existence of gods, but I’m prepared to believe they may exist, if I’m shown some evidence.

  3. Broga says:

    @Ken: You are such a contemptible, dishonest hypocrite. The man was stoned to death. That is a worse execution than being hung.

    Another of your demented fantasies is that you say the reason atheists argue so much against God in because we really believe in him. I think the reason you come here with your pathetic contributions is that you don’t believe in him. You know you will never convince us. What you are trying to do is convince yourself. You are terrified that, at a deeper level, your faith has gone and you are talking to yourself when you come here to preach at us.

    We don’t believe in God on the basis of facts and reason. We argue against the fantasy, slaughtering, foul mouthed tyrant to try to alert others to the horrors of what priests have encouraged them to accept. You don’t believe in him either, unless you are totally paranoid and I cannot rule this out, but by coming here you try to persuade yourself. Why keep coming? You have never made any impact on us and you are endlessly ridiculed (deservedly) and abused. So what do you want other then to reassure yourself and you can’t do it. Stop fooling yourself. Take the next step and free yourself by recognising reality and becoming an atheist. You will be much happier.

  4. Ken says:

    Broga – The reason I have posted on here is that I think it somehow dishonest not to engage with those who disagree, and to ensure my veiw of the ‘new atheist’ scene is not simply due to the assessment of it by Christian apologists.

    You claim not to believe in God due to facts and reason. However, the facts and reasoning you give when dealing with the bible – and this is very common in the blogosphere amongst atheists – are very frequently demonstrably not true. Add to that an unwillingness to even consider you have taken something out of context or view it in anything other than the worst possible light. This is bound to raise the question as to why this is. What are you as a believer to make of someone assuring you that you are a complete idiot when they clearly have not idea of just what you actually believe in. I have a couple of websites in mind here. It’s irrational.

    In one sense I am an atheist like you – I don’t believe in a ‘slaughtering, foul mouthed tyrant’, I see this picture of God as a caricature based on a willingness to torture the biblical text. I also don’t see God as revealed in scripture as a sentimental lovey-dovey kind of father either.

    The only reason for believing in God/disbelieving in God is what you are convinced is the truth based on thinking about the evidence. I don’t see how becoming an atheist could ever make anyone happier, even if if were true.

  5. Ken says:

    Graham Martin-Royle: see the second paragraph of my reply to Broga.

    Putting the whole religion/atheism issue completely to one side for a moment, I noticed in the Thatcher thread that you have recently lost your mother.

    I appreciated your decent humanity in differentiating between Thatcher the mother and Thatcher the politician, sadly all too rare.

    You have my sympathy at what is only ever a difficult time. I say that having recently very near lost my father who had an accident in the home (should have died), and knowing the grief of thinking you are having to say your final farewell. He has recovered for now, but it reminded me this is coming one day, and probably not in the too distant future (he’s 90).