A bishop has condemned a report on religious education in Britain, saying it has “little regard” for the Catholic Church and its recommendations are “unacceptable”.
Bishop Marcus Stock of Leeds, who is the lead bishop for Religious Education on the bishops’ conference, said the report would “dictate” what the Church can teach in Catholic schools, and treats religion as a purely sociological matter.
The report, titled ‘A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools’, was written by former Education Secretary Charles Clarke and Lancaster University professor Linda Woodhead for Westminster Faith Debates.
The 60-page booklet says that the current syllabus for religious education in British state schools is outdated, and calls for the subject to be renamed Religion, Beliefs and Values.
While the report says that Religious Education (RE) should be mandatory for all state school students, its content should be comparative. Faith schools could provide additional teaching on top of this, it adds.
However, Bishop Stock said the recommendations had “little regard for the approach taken by the Catholic Church to the teaching of RE.”
“Not only are their recommendations largely incompatible within our sector, they were compiled with the knowledge that the Catholic community would find them unacceptable; this was explicitly stated in their report,” he said.
In a statement, Bishop Stock said the there were two main problems with the report: “Firstly, that the State can impose a national RE curriculum, which would dictate what the Church is required to teach in Catholic schools. Secondly, the curriculum they suggest contains no theological content, which is at the core of Catholic RE.”
He added: “We accept there is a need to improve RE in all schools and Catholic teachers and academics have been actively contributing to this discussion, producing suggestions that would work within the plurality in our country’s schools sector, allowing for all schools to choose between RE as a theological discipline and Religious Studies as a sociological discipline.”
“Catholic schools are the most successful providers of Religious Education in the country. This is because we take it seriously as a rigorous, theological academic subject. However, rather than look at the sector that does it the best they have opted for a reductionist approach which is exclusively sociological and has no consensus amongst RE professionals.”