RELIGIOUS education was in danger of becoming a Cinderella subject, said Lord Blake, Provost of Queen's College, Oxford opening a debate in the
House of Lords on Wednesday.
Lord Blake was calling' attention to the "lack of adequate Christian content in religious education in local education authority schools".
He said that he was convinced that there had been a grave reduction over the past 20 years in the Christian element in religious education. He said this did not apply in all schools, and he did not wish the motion to imply that he was being critical of county schools as such.
But he said: "It is a strange irony of events that one of the few subjects decreed by an Act of Parliament to be a part of every school curriculum is in many schools the weakest, least well taught and the most perfunctorily observed of all.
In particular, Lord Blake complained that religious education had been merged with other faiths "a mish-mash of comparative religions" or merely a vague sort of uplift or indistinguishable from civics."
He went on: "The real danger today is not indoctrination. It is widely understood that actual evangelising for the Christian cause is not appropriate in the classroom of county schools."
It was something for the churches to do. The real danger was that knowledge of what the Christian religion is would gradually disappear either because religious education was interpreted as study of comparative religions — "or because religious education is simply ignored."
Lord Blake called for an independent inquiry into religious education in maintained schools, and the place of religious education Christianity within it. '
Secondly, he said that religious education should be part of common core curriculum if such a curriculum comes into being.
Thirdly, the Department of Education and Science should issue a circular to all local education authorities declaring the Christianity should be central to religious education.
Fourthly, Lord Blake suggested that the career of a teacher specialising in religious education should be made more attractive and that RE should be considered a specialist subject with inspectors and inservice courses.
Lastly, Lord Blake said training for religious teachers should be improved.
Supporting Lord Blake's motion, Lord Longford pointed to the growing shortage of religious education specialists. There were many reasons for this, he said, but chief among them was the ever-widening content of religious education.
"Christians who have found the relevance of a religious Understanding of life for themselves are best qualified to help the pupils in their search for a religious meaning in their own lives."
What was needed, said Lord Longford, was the return to Christian and biblical study as the major and central part of religious education in schools.