BRENT HAS drafted a multifaith religious education syllabus that has won Government endorsement and will be circulated by the Schools Inspectorate shortly.
The syllabus, designed for schools in Brent by a multi-faith group that includes Catholic, Anglican, Jewish, Moslem and Hindu representatives, sets all religions on an equal footing, while stressing the fundamental principles of morals and ethics in a multi-faith and multi-racial society.
"It does not attempt to alter a child's own beliefs", said Roger Mason, chairman of the statutory conference which framed the blueprint. Rather it will "provide a knowledge of his own and others' beliefs".
Handbooks, discussions, and school assemblies will be part of the syllabus, aimed at primary and secondary state schools.
A Brent spokesman, Stephen Carey, said the "wide religious grouping" in the borough explained the emphasis on multifaith education.
"When I attended a Catholic school", he said, "the only faith taught was the Catholic faith: today this is no longer possible, given our multi-faith society", said Mr Carey.
He claimed the stimulus for the new syllabus came from parents' and teachers' concern "that children understand the duties and responsibilities religion entails".
An education spokesman for the Westminster diocese gave the Brent initiative qualified support. He said up to half the Catholic schools in Britain studied to some extent other religions.
But Brent's stance could never he wholly acceptable to Catholic schools as "our first objective is to nurture the Catholic faith . . . only then can we inform in others' faiths".
• WALES lags behind England in the number of religious education teachers with expert knowledge of a range of world faiths, an expert said this week.
John Summerwill, deputy director of the Welsh National Centre for Religious Education at the University College of North Wales, said the lack of experts in non-Christian faiths was a problem, given emphasis on multi-faith education in schools.