The status of religious education within the whole school curriculum
Section 352 of the Education Act 1996 identifies the distinctive place of religious education as part of the basic curriculum alongside the National Curriculum. Religious education is to have equal standing in relation to the core and foundation subjects within the school. It differs from the subjects of the National Curriculum only in that it is not subject to national prescription. It is a matter for the Agreed Syllabus Conferences to recommend locally prescribed procedures for the local authority (LA).
The Education Act 1996, School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and Education Act 2002 require that:
- Religious education should be taught to all children and young people other than those in nursery classes and except for those withdrawn at the wish of their parents.
- Teachers’ rights are safeguarded, should they wish to withdraw from the teaching of religious education.
- Religious education in all community, foundation and voluntary controlled schools should be taught in accordance with an Agreed Syllabus.
- An Agreed Syllabus should reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian, while taking account of the teachings and practices of the other principal religions in Great Britain.
- An Agreed Syllabus must not be designed to convert pupils, or to urge a particular religion or religious belief on pupils.
- An Agreed Syllabus Conference must be convened every five years to review the existing syllabus.
The purpose of religious education
Living Difference III seeks to introduce children and young people to what a religious way of looking at and existing in the world may offer in leading one’s life, individually and collectively.
It recognises and acknowledges that the question as to what it means to lead one’s life with such an orientation can be answered in a number of qualitatively different ways. These include the idea that to live a religious life means to subscribe to certain propositional beliefs (religion as truth); the idea that to live a religious life means to adhere to certain practices (religion as practice); and the idea that to live a religious life is characterised by a particular way of being in and with the world: with a particular kind of awareness of and faith in the world and in other human beings (religion as existence).
These three ways of conceptualising religion also relate to different theological positions and may be found as overlapping to different extents within any particular religious tradition.
Religious education in Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and the Isle of Wight intends to play an educative part in the lives of children and young people as they come to speak, think and act in the world.
This entails teachers bringing children and young people first to attend to their own experience and that of others, to engage intellectually with material that is new and to discern with others what is valuable with regard to living a religious life or one informed by a non-religious or other perspective.
This approach to religious education in Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight schools is consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly Articles 12, 13, 14 and 30, and supports the work of rights respecting education (RRE).
RE is taught from the Living Difference III Agreed Syllabus for religious education (RE) in Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton, and the Isle of Wight. It builds on the approach to religious education, enriched by philosophical and theological enquiry, as well as current research, which has been in use in Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton since 2004. The skills of religious education in Living Difference III are the enquiry skills of Communicate, Apply, Enquire, Contextualise and Evaluate.
At Key Stage 2 children are required to study Christianity and two other religions. In Years 3 and 4 this will be Christianity and one other religion and in Years 5 and 6 children are required to study Christianity and a different religion. In upper Key Stage 2 a non-religious world view may be included in addition. Purbrook Junior School children will study Christianity and Judaism in Year 3 and 4 and then Christianity and Buddhism in Year 5 and 6.