Parents should not be allowed to opt children out of RE classes, former Education Secretary says

The Telegraph is reporting that in a new policy pamphlet, Mr Clarke, alongside Lancaster University professor Linda Woodhead, calls for RE to be treated as a “normal academic subject” like History and English.

Mr Charles Clarke, who also served as Home Secretary under Tony Blair, argues that the laws governing religion in schools are 75 years out of date.

“The current legal relationship between religion, belief and schools is outdated in such a way that the law itself has become a barrier to schools’ ability to help their children understand their own situation and the world in which they are growing up,” he said.

“What’s urgently needed…is an urgent reform of the law that underpins the way religion is handled in schools.”  Mr Clarke’s report, published by Westminster Faith Debates, said that the parental opt-out for RE lessons is “anachronistic” and harks back to a time when the classes were treated as confessional “Religious Instruction”.  

The report also argues that RE should be renamed as “Religion, Belief and Values” to recognise the fact that the majority of people in England now say they have no religion.  

The Right Reverend Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds and lead bishop for Religious Education, said: “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.”

Read more Parents should not be allowed to opt children out of RE classes, former Education Secretary says

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