Religious Education (Open)

November 2015 update.  On this site you will find Open Religious Education and Its Enemies This is a revision of my paper first written in 2002-3 i.e. post “9-11” entitled Open Religious Education and the Fundamentalist Threat. This paper asserts that the uniquely open and scholarly education in Religion that has developed in Britain in our universities and  maintained schools, has a vital role to play in promoting the tolerant, rational and open culture which all forms of fundamentalism seek to subvert and what is more the development of Islamic jihadi fundamentalism within our society means it is essential that the importance of good open  education in religion needs to recognised and far more positively supported by government, the political parties and the faith communities.

2. Recommendations for an RE Policy 2009 . A paper given to David Laws MP then in charge of Lib Dem policy on Education prior to a LD review of the school curriculum.

3. Religious Education is Failing. A letter sent to David Laws Oct 2013 On the day of the last General Election I congratulated David Laws on his election as Yeovil MP and on the excellent hatchet job he did the day before on Radio 4 on Michael Gove and his policies. In the turmoil that followed the setting up of the Coalition David Laws first entered and then left the Cabinet and Michael Gove got Education. An arrogant, intelligent, ambitious and quirky Tory with a real passion for education as he sees it, he also ignores and over-rides his advisors and seems hell bent on undermining all local education authorities while creating administrative mayhem in the state sector as he follows the basic Thatcher dictum “Private good, public bad.”

He is forcing through a process of schools becoming “Academies” which he thinks on little evidence will “drive up standards” and where RE is in the hands of the governors and can be completely under denominational, business or other quirky control and so not open at all. He has downgraded the status of RE exams so the subject is not counted as one of the five checked by OFSTED and so will be demoted in schools to where it was before OFSTED intervened. This I fear may be a catastrophe for RE and an undermining of our future as a tolerant, culturally and religiously diverse society.  He does this  despite RE having become the fastest growing subject of choice (by pupils) in the curriculum. He is also allowing unqualified teachers to work in academies and in his much vaunted “free schools” and has made the present mandatory qualification for headships voluntary which will mean it will be ignored. The result is going to be some better state funded schools where middle class parents can push to get their children in and dregs schools for the rest.  Though adopted and brought up by good working class parents he obtained a scholarship to a public school before going on to Oxford and a career in journalism. He has of course never himself experienced Open RE. This is depressing. For years I was a member of the National Teachers Committee for RE set up by CEM – then the body for RE professionals.  Since 11.9.2001 (also my 60th birthday, )I have been very concerned that the role good Open RE  in schools could play in building an open, inclusive and tolerant society was being seriously underestimated.  As a result I wrote the original version of the following paper and sent copies to leading Lib Dem and some Labour politicians as a result of the initial encouragement I received from our MP David Heath.  I received several encouraging responses and finally have been in touch in 09 with David Laws MP the Lib Dem then responsible for schools and curriculum policy in the party. Sadly he did not take on board my recommendations – particulalry as regards the inspection of RE in non maintained schools.  Later I learnt he had a Catholic background so had never experienced Open RE himself. Such a pity. Generally however he promoted excellent education policies – the Pupil Premium, an emphasis on early years expenditure and concentrating not on a choce of schools, but on making sure all local schools, like local hospitals, should be high quaility and accountable to parents. I have now added the text of the letter I have sent him after reading about the OFSTED report on declining RE and the RECouncil for England and Wales report on RE which has come out now Oct 2013.