Catholic, Anglican churches respond to Ofsted Religious Education report

The Catholic and Anglican  churches  have given their first reaction to the government's Ofsted report:  Transforming Religious Education

In a statement, director Oona Stannard from the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW) welcomes the attention given by Ofsted to Religious Education in its recent report.

Whilst the findings do not apply to Catholic schools which, with their voluntary aided character, are inspected and reported upon under separate arrangements, the report is still a very significant one for us. Many Catholic pupils will be in the community schools to which the report refers and they, and all others in these schools, deserve a meaningful Religious Education where they grow in knowledge and understanding as they learn about and from religion. This must include the sound study of Christianity.

The report shows that this entitlement is far from consistently met. It is an important wake up call. It should be a source of great concern that teachers lacked the necessary knowledge and confidence to plan and teach high quality Religious Education. However, rather than criticize teachers we should face up to the importance of Religious Education and look to Government for commitment to supporting Religious Education in the curriculum, its funding and back up for first class training and professional development of teachers for Religious Education. Religious Education is a crucial subject because it allows pupils space to engage with the 'big' questions, to learn from and to examine the beliefs of others, to understand better the intellectual and cultural heritage of our society and to grapple with challenging ethical questions. Religious Education has never been more important than at present, so now let's see it treated as such in all types of schools. 

Catholic schools have a proven track record in successfully teaching Religious Education, in its assessment and in achievement, accompanied by the necessary professional development of teaching staff. The Catholic sector is very willing to share that experience and expertise with Government, local authorities and schools.

Speaking for the Church of England, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali said:

i)    There is the vitally important question about a framework for RE which is raised but not answered by the report.  Christianity should be not just the main faith that is taught (as the law requires), but it should provide the framework for everything else that is taught in RE.

ii)    More specifically, the study of the different faiths should not be just a smorgasbord of interesting rituals and feasts but Christian faith should provide the vantage point for studying them with sympathy and attention but also critically.

iii)    The report rightly recognises the need for pupils to be able to understand the nature of religious experience, particularly their own but also that of others.

iv)    At the secondary stage, especially, RE should increasingly address questions of meaning, purpose and destiny which may be raised in other parts of the curriculum, for example, history or science. An integrated educational approach is necessary.

v)    If RE is to be delivered in the ways the report envisages, there will have to be a new partnership between schools, churches and the excellent voluntary agencies which exist to support RE.

vi)    It should be noted that church schools are not included in the survey but some of the questions raised may apply also to them.

Source: CoE Comms/CES

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