Humanists in Wales have expressed their delight as the Senedd voted to scrap RE and replace it with a new subject including compulsory lessons on Humanism and atheism.
The new ‘Religion, Values and Ethics’ (RVE) curriculum will teach non-religious worldviews alongside Christianity and other religious beliefs.
A plan to give atheists a veto over any religious teaching in schools was dropped, but the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill allows for disproportionate time to be spent studying Humanism or atheism. It also repealed key safeguards on the teaching of sex education.
Kathy Riddick of lobby group Wales Humanists commented: “We are absolutely delighted that the Senedd has passed this bill and that, after many years of campaigning by Wales Humanists, humanism will be put on an equal footing with religions throughout the curriculum.”
When the new subject comes into force in 2022, the lessons will be compulsory after the automatic right for parents to withdraw their children from RE or sex education teaching they object to was removed.
There will also be no limit on the percentage of time within RVE devoted to beliefs such as atheism or Humanism, meaning teaching about Christianity could be marginalised.
The Institute’s Wales Officer, Gareth Edwards, said: “The Welsh Government ignored two public consultations which clearly opposed these changes.
“In the last census only 815 people said they were humanists in the whole of Wales. Why have they been handed such influence over the content of religious teaching in schools?”
The new law also introduced the controversial Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) subject, which will abolish a number of decades-old safeguards preventing unsuitable materials from being taught.
Mr Edwards added: “While this is a setback, Christians will still be able to have a positive influence in schools by responding to the public consultation on the RSE code in due course, and parents should also expect to be consulted by their schools before changes are brought in.”
Writing in The Conservative Woman, Elizabeth Francis of religious liberty group ADF International said the changes should worry parents.
She said they “erode the UK’s long history of recognising and upholding parental rights in education, both through common law and written law.
“Particularly when it comes to sensitive topics, the primary role of parents has always been respected as they are best placed to determine what is age-appropriate for the background, culture, and developmental maturity of their children.”