SACRE meeting 18th June 2007

The first item on the agenda was the daily collective act of worship. WSCC acknowledged that the law was being broken by most secondary schools in West Sussex. This is due to insufficient space for large assemblies, and the lack of staff willing to conduct an act of worship. WSCC said they could not advise schools to hold a weekly act of worship because this would break the law.

Gordon Parry (head teacher) said that children simply don't want it, and that there needs to be a serious rethink. His position was supported by another teacher who tried to introduce hymn singing but found that children talked all through it.

A Catholic representative said that they could only manage a collective act of worship on the recreation ground. This caused neighbours to make a formal complaint about the noise, saying their rights were being infringed.

Councillor Phillip Coote waxed lyrical about his days in the army, said there was not enough discipline in schools, and told the teachers to just get on with it and stop making excuses. He got a predictable response.

It was decided that the problem is one for government to solve. WSCC will write a letter asking how the government expects them to enforce the law and what is their response to Ofsted reports of non-compliance.

Draft 2 of the RE syllabus was the main item on the agenda. Ammendments to the first draft are highlighted by vertical lines in the margin. None of my recommendations were included. In fact, Draft 2 is less inclusive of secular (non-religious) wolrdviews than Draft 1; the text highlighted in red on page 10 replaces the text highlighted in green.

As before, most interest revolved around the inclusion of secular (non-religious) references. After an open discussion, the meeting broke into the four groups (C of E, Other Religions, Teachers, Councillors); as an observer, I was requested to leave the meeting (presumably because members might say something to embarrass theWSCC, as at previous meetings, and be reported by the press representative).

On my return, groups had to vote on the various ammendments to Draft 1. Predictably, virtually every member wanted to reduce the inclusion of secular (non-religious) worldviews in the new draft; the word "many" was deleted, shown in blue on page 10.

Thankfully, the steering committee ignored the overwhelming requests from the previous meeting to withdraw all references to secular worldviews; to do so would have been farcical, seeing as the new syllabus is supposed to be based on the Non-statutory Framework for RE.

The other issue that attracted attention was the RE requirement for pupils aged 16-18. The government requires all pupils in locally maintained schools to receive RE throughout their education, i.e. up to 18 years of age. Draft 2 included a statement that this provision should be of at least 6 to 8 hours per year. Currently, virtually every secondary school in West Sussex does not comply, again for practical reasons.

 

Andrew Edmondson