Religious education in Bedford is set to include learning about the views of non believers

School children

A meeting this week heard that the Religious Education (RE) syllabus is set to be relaunched in the spring of 2021, and teachers will be offered the chance to be trained about Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Islam.

But Charles Baily, who represents humanists on Bedford’s standing advisory council for religious education (SACRE), spotted that plans to train teachers were missing humanism, which is a non-religious world view.

Mr Baily has recently been admitted to SACRE as a full voting member.

Two members of the committee wanted to see what the training, from a national organisation, involved before recommending it to schools.

Committee members are being asked for their views before the end of the week.

It would then be available for schools to use in time for next week’s Inter Faith Week and for teacher training in the borough after that.

Cllr Kay Burley (Lab, Kempston Central and East) a RE link advisor said it would be useful for children at primary school to learn about humanism.

“In my experience the response from a lower age range is a quite disturbing lack of understanding of humanism,” she said.

“Whilst they’ve had all the other religious situations they have not very much understanding of what happens if a child comes from a family of “non believers.”

She added: “The response I’ve been getting is that we leave that to the higher age range, to the secondary schools and what Charles has put forward is very useful.

“If SACRE can endorse some kind of access to help people, particularly in the lower age range, then I think that’s absolutely brilliant.”

And Julia Diamond-Conway, a national RE advisor at RE Today, agreed: “We tend to look at humanism and non religious world views more explicitly as children get older, but who is not to say that when the children are younger we shouldn’t be looking at non religious world views?

“It’s quite good to be drip feeding it in when children are young because in our classrooms we do have children there that are from non religious backgrounds

“Even when they are tiny we need to be as much about them as the other children on the carpet.”

The committee also agreed to ask the Government for an update on what it intends to do about a pending review of changing the name religious education to include non religious world views.

The committee was told that the Government has put off a review because it does not want to impose more change on schools.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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