School lessons on Christianity can be “incoherent, lacking in intellectual development, or too stereotypical”, a University of Oxford lecturer has warned.
The caution came as a survey revealed the majority of people think children need to learn about Christianity in schools in order to understand English history and culture.
Dr Nigel Fancourt, who is the lead researcher on a new religious education project at the University of Oxford, said some schools do have “challenging and vibrant” Christian teaching.
However, he added, “the fact that the basics are often already vaguely familiar to some teachers and pupils means it can present problems”.
Dr Fancourt also told BBC News that some teaching focuses too much on simply faith or moral development.
He explained that a lesson on Jesus feeding the 5,000 could become “an exhortation to share your picnic rather than a discussion of whether miracles really happen or what significance they have for Christians today: for example those who say they have been miraculously healed or pray for healing”.
The University project follows concerns about how Christianity is being taught.
One problem noted in research is that teachers are sometimes nervous about tackling issues surrounding Christianity because they are worried that it could be considered as evangelising.
The work is being launched by a research team at Oxford University as part of wider work on religion in education.
And a poll, which was carried out for the project, showed 64 per cent agreed that children need to learn about Christianity in order to understand English history, while 57 per cent agreed it was needed to understand the English culture and way of life.
Commenting on the survey on her Daily Telegraph blog, Cristina Odone said it showed “Britons feel comfortable with Christianity”, but teachers do not.
She wrote: “This rejection of a huge part of Britain’s legacy was blessed by successive governments – incredibly, even this Government.
“In pursuit of its multi-faith agenda, the Coalition fears anything remotely connected with Christianity, lest it be misinterpreted as cultural imperialism.”