SACRE meeting 10th March 2008

After signing off the minutes, the meeting ended.

The Agreed Syllabus Conference (ASC) was then convened using the same members. This meeting has to decide whether to adopt the proposed new RE syllabus (click here for Word version).

Nigel Bloodworth, RE advisor and chief author, pointed to three changes in the draft syllabus since the last meeting. One of these refers to Humanism (the only reference in the entire syllabus):

... it is recommended that there are opportunities to consider ... secular philosophies such as Humanism

This is a small but significant step forward.

Unfortunately, there are other obvious places where Humanism has not been mentioned, e.g. at every Key stage:

Breadth of Study. During the key stage, pupils should be taught, where appropriate, ... a secular world view.

It is still unclear what is meant by the phrase "where appropriate". In a reply to an email sent in June 2007, Nigel Bloodworth said that they "might include guidance in the support materials, if they thought it was helpful". I recently spoke to the Curriculum Advisor from QCA who said that he could not think of a single instance of where teaching a secular worldview would be inappropriate in a community school (QCA wrote the Non-Statutory Framework for RE and only intended the term "where appropriate" to be considered by the SACRE rather than by individual community schools!).

Attention was then drawn to a list of support material for teachers. This does not contain any Humanist material. I previously sent Nigel Bloodworth a list of suitable materials and hope that he will include some of them.

I was then asked to leave the room whilst the members discussed the syllabus in their four groups. On my return, the vote for the new syllabus was unanimous.

The syllabus will be in force from September 2008. It will be formally presented at Oathall Community College in October. SACRE members and their colleagues are invited to celebrate the new syllabus. I was not invited, which is just as well, seeing as there is little for the non-religious to celebrate.

The Chair ended the session saying that they had started with a blank canvas and had learned a lot along the way. Unfortunately, they had not learned how to include the non-reigious.

This new syllabus will last 5 years. During this time, WSCC will have to show that they are promoting community cohesion in their schools (under recent DCSF guidance). One way in which this can be fulfilled is through including Humanism in the syllabus. Mentioning Humanism just once in the syllabus is clearly insufficient.

Furthermore, recent equalities legislation makes discrimination based on religion and belief an offence. If schools do not teach children about beliefs other than religion, this could be construed as a form of discimination. As the QCA points out, the Non-Statutory Framework for RE is consistent with this new legislation.

Let's hope that addiional guidance and materials are forthcoming. Schools will not change unless there is positive guidance from WSCC.


Andrew Edmondson