Govt: ‘Equal air time’ for humanism in RE not required

Schools do not have to teach humanism on an equal footing with religious views, revised Department for Education guidance has said.

The advice, issued in response to a recent High Court ruling, clarifies that schools are not required to give “equal air time” to teaching religious and non-religious views in lessons.

In November last year, Mr Justice Warby ruled that the Education Secretary had made an “error of law” by excluding “non-religious world views” from the new Religious Studies (RS) GCSE.

Approach

The Department for Education’s new advice reaffirms that schools “should be free to determine their own approach to the teaching of RE and the selection of the appropriate RS GCSE”.

The guidelines also say that the RE curriculum in schools without a religious character must reflect the fact that “the religious traditions in Great Britain are, in the main, Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain”.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan explained: “This government is determined to protect schools’ freedom to set their own religious studies curriculum, in line with the wishes of parents and the local community.

No impact

“The guidance I have issued makes absolutely clear that the recent judicial review will have no impact on what is currently being taught in religious education.

“I am clear that both faith and non-faith schools are completely entitled to prioritise the teaching of religion and faith over non-religious world views if they wish”, she added.

Revd Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, said the new guidance “provides assurance that the judgment does not impact on the content of the new GCSE”.

Humanism

The Christian Institute had spoken out against the High Court ruling, warning that humanism already dominates the curriculum.

Spokesman Simon Calvert said: “It is the one subject in which pupils are encouraged to think positively about religion. Children don’t have to learn about Maths in History lessons. They don’t study French in Biology. So why should pupils have to learn about atheism in religious education?”

Related Resources