Faith schools to teach other religions – Cabinet divided

Plans to change the Religious Studies GCSE so that faith schools must teach other religions have caused a rift in the Cabinet, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is strongly against the proposals, the newspaper reported.

Currently the syllabus says pupils should study one ‘world religion’, which is usually the faith of the particular school.

Trojan Horse

The move by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, which is supported by Home Secretary Theresa May, comes in response to the ‘Trojan Horse’ scandal in Birmingham.

Earlier this year, certain state schools were found to have been taken over by governors seeking to impose harsh Islamic practices.

The stated aim of changing the GCSE RS course is to prevent Islamic extremism.

Distinctive ethos

But a Government source said that Pickles thinks the move is “just meddling”, and will have a “knock-on effect on the freedom of Catholic and Jewish schools to restrict their teachings to just their faith and preserve their distinctive ethos”.

The Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said “forced changes to the GCSE, through which so many learn about their own faith” is not the right way to ensure British values are taught to all.

And a spokesman for the Partnership for Jewish Schools (PaJeS) said the proposals were likely to “impact on performance in a subject which is already being marginalised in many schools”.

Government’s agenda

He added, “our teachers feel that GCSE examinations are not the right medium to promote a Government’s agenda”.

Last month, The Christian Institute threatened the Government with legal action over its plans to compel independent schools to ‘actively promote’ homosexual and transsexual rights.

The Institute said that the new standards, to be implemented in more than 6,000 independent schools, free schools and academies, are “badly written” and could result in removing gender specific terms such as ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ from the curriculum.

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