Churches join forces to examine role of religion
by Joanna Moorhead RE teachers must avoid oversuperficiality in the classroom, leading to "an arid communication" of religious knowledge, according to a report published this week.
RE, Attainment and National Curriculum a report by a working party of the RE Council of England and Wales, published by the Religious Education Council, highlights superficiality as one of the main dangers of the National Curriculum era for the teaching of religion.
"There is a real danger that this general approach can result in an arid communication of information, a 'multi-fact' RE. It was a similar tendency in earlier Bible-based RE that was exposed by research in the 1950s and 1960s as failing to connect with pupils' experience and interests," the report says.
The danger is "compounded by the constraints of teaching time and lack of specialist expertise and resources," it continues.
The report, which looks at the relationship between RE and the National Curriculum, says there is "considerable concern" that documents produced by the NC Council "make few references to the spiritual, moral and cultural development required by the Education Reform Act".
This has been partly responsible for allegations from faith communities that schools arc increasingly becoming overly secular institutions. "Moreover, the brand of secularity being projected appears unnecessarily narrow and closed," it says.
The report weighs up the pros and cons of teaching RE within the framework mapped out for subjects within the National Curriculum. At present, RE is outside the provisions of the curriculum. It considers such issues as the right way to assess religious knowledge, and staff provision, and concludes that "on balance, more is to be gained by RE working with an NC framework, whether in part or whole, than pursuing an entirely different pattern".
Assessment of RE should include tests that pupils can recall important information. But such tests are only one component to the efficient teaching of religion, says the report, and understanding of RE material must also be checked. Fr Harry Stratton, the Catholic member of the RE Council executive, said the report signalled "a significant stage" on the journey to giving RE its rightful place in education.
"The document will help people clarify their thinking on what they are setting out to do in the whole process of educating our children religiously," he said.
.WELSH schools are losing their right to teach religion, according to a report published by the Church in Wales this week.
RE in Wales is under threat because of a lack of both resources and trained teachers, it says. The church complaint will be discussed by its governing body later this month.
In particular, the report bemoans the lack of teaching materials. And a survey carried out in Monmouth diocese had found some primary schools were failing to provide at all for RE, as distinct from school assembly, while some secondary schools were not giving even the five per cent of teaching time as recommended by inspectors and the Curriculum Council for Wales, as the minimum needed for "meaningful" teaching.