Parents 'abusing right to withdraw children from RE lessons'

NATRE has become increasingly concerned about reports that the use of the legal right of parents and guardians to withdraw their children selectively from parts of RE; especially from trips to mosques, synagogues and other places of worship has been becoming more common.

Our fringe events at the different political party conferences in the autumn and the press coverage of them, has prompted some wider discussion of the issue. We are delighted to report that excellent speeches from Richard Griffiths and Kim Knappett at the ATL conference have resulted in the union voting to work with NATRE “to determine the nature and extent of the selective use of the right of withdrawal” and to lobby government to prevent pupils from being selectively withdrawn from RE lessons.

Government ministers have spoken of their commitment to building a society where all can expect mutual respect and tolerance for their religion or belief. These are fine ambition but to achieve them, they must take decisive steps tackle the levels of religious illiteracy and in some cases bigotry that have become increasingly prevalent in our society.

It is an obvious but often forgotten truth that you cannot build respect, tolerance and recognition for those with different religions and beliefs without knowledge and understanding of those beliefs and their place in people’s lives. If pupils miss out on a comprehensive programme of high quality RE, they are therefore being denied their entitlement to being fully prepared for life in modern Britain and are placed at risk from the very same ignorance and bigotry that often drives selective withdrawal.

Ben Wood, Chair of NATRE comments:

'It is pleasing to see colleagues in the ATL union recognising the issue of selective withdrawal from RE. High quality RE plays a crucial role in the education of young people, helping them to learn about the people and communities around them. There is simply no need for any child to be withdrawn from such an important subject, and NATRE is looking forward to working with members of the union to ensure that all students in all schools are able to receive excellent RE.'

Press Coverage of the conference motion can be found here:

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