kV MURRAY WHITE
A DEBATE OVER the content and emphasis of religious education in Catholic schools is set to be re-ignited next week with the publication of a major new RE programme for Primary schools by an independent Catholic Trust. • "Children of the Promise", a new six year resource programme comes three years after the hotly debated "Here I Am" sparked a row over whether RE should aim to "pass on the faith" or "teach about Catholicism as one among many faiths". ' One traditionalist Catholic group, Pro Ecclesia, voiced concern this week that Hodder and Stoughton, the publishers of "Children of the Promise" intend to market it among other Christian schools. Daphne McLeod of Pro Ecclesia said: "If it is suitable for Anglican schools then It cannot be teaching that the Catholic Church is the one, true Church. What worries me is that it is not implementing the Catechism."
• In an exclusive interview this week with the Catholic lieruld, the author of Chil
dren of the Promise, Sr Judith Russi, says that the project, which received £10,000 in sponsorship from the Bank of Ireland, breaks new ground by offering a whole school curriculum plan in a Catholic context. It also uniquely gives an explicit list of key attainment targets on spiritual and moral education across the curriculum. These targets stress a knowledge and understanding of Catholicism rather than trying to measure faith. Sr Judith, who is an RE advisor to Catholic schools in the Westminster diocese, said: "The Bishops have said that RE is not one subject among many. Our beliefs and values must substantially shape and inspire every aspect of the curriculum. That is what 'Children of the Promise' tries to do." Sr Judith stressed that 'Children of the Promise' is able to complement other RE programmes including both Here I Am and the more traditional Weritas' programme used by some dioceses. But others in the RE sector thought that it was likely that the publication would fire up an increasingly
Br Damien Lundy, a coordinator of the Bishops Conference-backed RE National Project which put together 'Here I Am' thought it was possible that 'Children of the Promise' would be seen as competition to 'Here 1 Am' although he welcomed the pupils' books which are included in the new venture. He said that to think that 'Here 1 Am' only provided material within RE lessons was a mistaken impression. "The teacher's instructions made it clear that Here I Am was intended to bring RE into the life of the whole school," he said. The new Hertfordshire RE Development Trust, which produced 'Children of the Promise', has been set up to promote new thinking in Catholic education and is to be uniquely funded by business sponsorship from the City. The Trust's patrons include Bishop James O'Brien, area bishop in Hertfordshire, and Kathleen O'Gorman, a leading education adviser to Cardinal Basil Hume, and much criticised
by traditionalist Catholics.
The report is being launched as schools across the country struggle with doubts over Government guidelines on how religious and moral education fits into the National Curriculum. A major conference held at the ecumenical Rochampton Institute in two weeks' time will hear prominient academics in the gE field question the direction of national fouryearly inspections into the spiritual, moral, cultural and social education in schools. The Conference, which willl be held on 23-24 June will consider the wider conflict between efforts by the Churches to secure spiritual education in schools, and Government efforts to impose a wider moral emphasis on the curriculum. Conference organiser Prof Ron Best said that "confusion has reigned" since the 1992 Education Act over the spiritual and moral aspects of the curriculum. Are spiritual and moral topics inextricably linked with religion and thus RE or something totally different?" he asked.
See Education, page 9