By Luke Coppen
CATHOLIC schools must place themselves "squarely in the mainstream mission of the Church", Bishop Vincent Nichols told a meeting of teachers in Harrogate this week.
The Archbishop-elect of Birmingham unveiled the next stage in the systematic overhaul of religious education, when he announced the imminent publication of a revised version of the controversial RE text Here 1 Am and the creation of a new national RE programme for secondary school pupils.
He also said that the bishops' of England and Wales are likely to produce a statement on expectations of religious education after their Low Week meeting in May.
The chairman of the Bishops' Department of Catholic Education and Formation told members of the Catholic Association of Teachers in Schools and Colleges (CATSC) that schools and colleges should be an "expression of the Church" and share in its mission.
But he explained that while teaching needed to be underpinned by the Church's ethos, classroom RE teaching should be "primarily educational".
"It is to be assessed by educational criteria first of all," he said, "for its primary purpose is to draw pupils into a healthy and systematic study of the teachings of the Church.
"For some in the classroom RE may be catechetical; for others evangelical. But its primary purpose is, in the best sense, learning. The Catholic school as a whole is a `catechetical community' with responsibility for living and sharing faith."
Bishop Nichols said that a recent survey and symposium on expectations of religious education had revealed a consensus on this point. The results of the January symposium, which brought together bishops, RE advisers and teachers, will be presented at the forthcoming plenary bishops' meeting and could lead to a statement on the "key aims of classroom RE".
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