In this seminar we began to look at how the study of religion in regards to school education has changed over time. It was interesting to see how my experience of studying religion is so different to the type of schooling my parents or grandparents would have received.
The first type of education we looked at was the result of the 1944 Education Act (section 25 specifically). There was a ‘dual system’ in place, meaning that there was a partnership between the government and churches in providing the nation’s education system. It seems that it was inevitable that at this time, the teaching of RE was focused on getting pupils to believe in God and be Christian. This type of teaching was termed Religious Instruction, which also involved collective worship.
Essentially, RI meant that instead of children receiving information about many cultures and religions as they usually are now, they were simply given information on Christianity and were encouraged to lead Christian lives that upheld the virtues and lessons of the Bible. A key aspect of the act was that it gave parents the right to withdraw their children from RI lessons and collective worship if they did not want them to attend.
From this came the introduction of Standard Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACREs). These were able to make decisions about matters concerning RI, such as a syllabus, teaching methods, choice of books etc. This meant that not all schools learnt exactly the same things.
Next, we looked at the 1988 Educational Reform Act, and how that changed the way religion was taught in schools. Part of the Act put forward the ‘National Curriculum’ we know today, while another section said that the curriculum must include provision for religious education for all pupils at registered at the school. We noticed that the provision of religious education was separate from the National Curriculum, so looked into some reasons; one of them being the concern that if RE was part of the curriculum, it may be harder to allow parents to withdraw their children from lessons if they so desired.
Another big change from the previous act, was that pupils no longer studied just Christianity as they did when the church and the government were in partnership. The new Act stated that the agreed RE syllabus shall reflect the fact that religious traditions in Great Britain are mainly Christian, whilst taking into account the teaching and practices of the other principle religions represented in Great Britain.
We then looked at changes that happened from 2004 and later. The main thing that changed from 1988 was, that in 2004, came the publication of a non-statutory national framework for religious education. It was designed to provide a clear and appropriate framework for the syllabus, which would allow pupils to all study similar things, even though their schools’ individual syllabus was agreed upon by the local authority.
I feel like through this seminar, I gained a much deeper understanding of how Religious Education has changed, and how that depending on where I decide to teach, there may be slight differences in the syllabus.