SACRE meeting 9th March 2009

Average results for RE examinations were reported. There was a request for SACRE to see typical past examination papers.

Various members expressed a desire for SACRE to visit schools to observe RE lessons and collective worship. A new council member suggested these visits be to schools of excellence; this would seem to defeat the object of finding out what is going on in schools across the county. The RE advisor suggested that the first such SACRE meeting be held in Hazelwick school, Crawley next Spring.

The self-evaluation of SACRE continued. They all agreed that SACRE represents the community, which is quite amazing seeing as they prevented any representation of the non-religious (at least 36% of the general population and 64% of teenagers).

It was acknowledged that SACRE rarely has contact with pupils or parents.

SACRE agreed that it has a good idea of the weaknesses of the syllabus and has sought local expertise in its development. How can this be so if the syllabus fails to address the needs of the non-religious, despite having detailed criticism from the BHA?

A disproportionate amount of time was spent discussing the failure of having a launch of the new RE syllabus.

SACRE agreed that it had not provided schools with guidance on collective worship, and does not monitor collective worship in schools. It is aware of the non-compliance of schools regarding the law.

SACRE agreed that it has a clear commitment to promoting social and racial harmony, but hasn't done anything about it yet. It has limited information about local authority initiatives.

The meeting moved on to discuss collective worship in more detail. The RE advisor described the three documents currently sent to schools regarding collective worship. He suggested creating an additional document outlining the reason for collective worship, e.g. developing values; it begs the question of how worshipping a deity can develop values. A councilor suggested that the meaning of the words of hymns should be explained, rather than their mere singing. One head teacher said that traditional worship and hymn singing would not be accepted in his multi-denominational school; he issues a thought for the day and a prayer that begins "We remember ...", rather than "We pray ...". He suggested that perhaps there should be prayer rooms for the use of pupils in school time, rather than forcing them to worship. Another suggestion was that there should be more varied activities, e.g. drama, music, presumably because worship per se is unacceptable.

Most secondary schools break the law every day by not holding a collective act of worship. This ridiculous law is unenforceable and contrary to the Human Rights Act. In most primary schools, however, there is a daily act of worship, serving to indoctrinate young, impressionable minds. Rowan Williams has openly said that every school should bring the Church to the children, especially those who are not exposed to religion elsewhere.

A councillor pointed out that schools must make it clear to parents which activities involve worship, so that their children can be withdrawn, if desired (virtually no children are withdrawn from worship because of possible ostracising from fellow pupils). One member expressed concern that 6th form students were missing out on collective worship whilst travelling between schools. It was pointed out that 6th form students are now legally entitled to withdraw themselves from collective worship.

One Sikh member said that RE should stick to the core ethical values shared by all religions and Humanism, thereby avoiding conflict.

Andrew Edmondson