Extended NATRE response to the Commission Report

Commission on Religious Education Final Report

Religions and Worldviews: The way forward

A National Plan for RE

Extended NATRE’s response.

The Commission of RE published its final report on Sunday 9th September. This important report presents a series of recommendations about the future of RE, setting out a vision for the subject that is the result of engaging with hundreds of individuals and groups interested in the teaching of RE. The final report can be found here, with NATRE’s initial response below.

Final report: Religion and Worldviews the way forward. A national plan for RE

NATRE have responded to the many opportunities to offer evidence by providing written responses, attending evidence gathering sessions and sourcing, compiling and sharing data. We have tried hard to ensure that the voice of both teachers and pupils has been heard by the commissioners.

Response

It is important to begin by thanking the Commissioners for their work in producing this report. They have taken on an enormous task in trying to find answers to some complex questions and they deserve our thanks for working together to produce these recommendations.

As the Commission’s report shows, there are a great many parties interested in the future of RE. This report presents an important opportunity for collaboration across these many stakeholders, and NATRE is looking forward to working positively with our partners for the benefit of pupils in all kinds of schools. We believe the voice of teachers now becomes especially important in taking our subject forward. Teachers must be involved at the centre of debates and discussions about the direction of the subject, both in considering the nature and purpose of the subject, and in effectively designing and implementing and new programmes of study.

The proposed change in the name of the subject is perhaps the most eye-catching of the Commission’s recommendations, but NATRE believes the recommendations focusing on the purpose and content of study are much more significant, and it is in these areas that teachers will look to engage in discussion and debate.

It is also worth noting that the Commission’s call for a more clearly identified place for study of non-religious worldviews, as well as its recognition of the importance of studying both institutionalised worldviews and personal autonomy, reflects current practice in many schools where RE is taught well, and is a feature of the majority of locally agreed syllabuses.

Over the last 3 years, NATRE has argued for there to be a statement of national entitlement, so we are pleased to see that this forms part of the Commission’s recommendations. The entitlement statement written by the Commission is undoubtedly a bold one that seeks to reshape the subject in a new way. This will no doubt elicit much debate. It is essential in a subject called Religion and Worldviews that pupils engage with the religions and worldviews in a study of, as the Commission calls it, ‘institutional worldviews’ and ‘personal worldviews’, thus coming to understand the diversity of practice, belief, value and commitment. The implementation of such a vision would bring some significant challenges, which the Commission acknowledges. If the government were to follow the Commission’s recommendation that this National Entitlement were statutory for all publicly funded schools, then they must also follow subsequent recommendations:

  • that would result in effective, age appropriate programmes of study detailing the knowledge and understanding pupils will gain of the diversity of religions and worldviews (recommendation 2)
  • that high-quality training (both ITT and CPD) will be provided for teachers so that students attain the required levels of knowledge and understanding (recommendations 6 and 7)
  • that Ofsted rigorously reviews the impact of these changes and effectively monitors the quality of implementation of such programmes of study against the National Entitlement (recommendation 9)
  • that training bursaries are set at a level that will help ensure that there are enough well trained teachers to teach the subject (recommendation 6b)
  • that Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses are funded to ensure that teachers (especially primary teachers) are well prepared to teach the subject (recommendation 6c)

NATRE is also pleased to see such a sensible recommendation concerning the right of withdrawal. NATRE has argued in the past that the right of withdrawal is being abused and used in such a way that runs opposite to the intentions of the government in promoting a cohesive society. This recommendation can be acted upon quickly and easily by the DfE in a way that both supports the government’s priorities and ensures that all pupils are given the right to learn about the religions and worldviews that are influential in our society.

NATRE are pleased to see in this report something that will promote conversation about religions and worldviews and wider society. We hope that the government will consider these recommendations seriously.