BY MURRAY WHITE
CATHOLIC EDUCATION chiefs this week firmly backed new national Religious Education syllabuses for state schools, which they have pioneered together with representatives of all faiths.
The unique collaboration, the first time that major faiths in Britain have co-operated to establish a national RE programme, places an emphasis on Christianity, although the requirement that it should make up more than 50 per cent of the curriculum mooted in a draft version has been dropped. Pupils will have to study five other major world religions. • Anthony Clark, Secretary to the Bishops' Conference
Schools Committee, welcomed what he called "groundbreaking" documents, while Education Secretary John Patten, a Catholic, said at the launch of the syllabuses on Tuesday; "I am personally glad to see that the models have Christianity at their centre... because I believe that it is essential to give pupils a proper understanding of the Christian heritage of this country."
Although the new syllabuses do not directly apply tc; Catholic. schools, there was prior concern that the needs of Catholic pupils at non-Church schools a quarter of the total number of RC students would be met.
Mr Clark was one of two Catholic representatives on a 24-person monitoring group which included Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists which saw that the new programmes satisfied Catholic educationalists.
Bishop David Konstant, Chairman of the Bishops' Education department, called for more resources to be put into in-service training to implement the developments. He suggested the pioneering of simplified RE certificates for 5th and 6th form pupils who could not complete GCSE or A level courses. Schools will not be legally required to use the model RE syllabuses.