English schools are failing to teach pupils about basic Christian beliefs in religious education lessons, according to a new report by the education watchdog, Ofsted.
The report warns that the teaching of Christianity in schools is often “superficial”, and that Jesus’s parables are often used to “explore personal feelings or to decide how people should behave” without any reference to their religious significance.
Ofsted also warns that the experiences of Christian pupils are being sidelined, while more attention is paid to the experiences of pupils from different faiths.
Ofsted’s report, called Transforming religious education, warns: “In many cases, the study of Jesus focused on an unsystematic collection of information about his life, with limited reference to his theological significance within the faith”.
The findings have alarmed critics, and are likely to further fuel concern about the marginalisation of Christianity.
Revd Jan Ainsworth, the Church of England’s chief education officer, said: “Ofsted’s findings relating to the teaching of Christianity are of particular concern, suggesting that in too many schools, the faith held by the majority of people in this country is not being properly taught in an in-depth way.
“Getting to grips with the key teachings of Jesus and other core elements of Christianity are building blocks that will help young people analyse and interpret the society they are growing up in, whether they choose to share that belief or not”, she continued.
Her concerns were echoed by Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, who said: “What is happening in schools perhaps reflects what has happened in society generally regarding the importance and practice of Christianity.”
He added: “But the study of Christian tradition is very important and if there is an imbalance, it needs to be redressed.”
The report was compiled after inspectors visited nearly 200 schools in 70 local authorities, and attended over 600 RE lessons between 2006 and 2009.
A recent Christian Institute report revealed the extent to which Christianity is being marginalised.
The report, called Marginalising Christians, catalogues numerous cases of Christians being sidelined by public bodies, popular media and employers, and facing barriers to public funding.