To receive the report on Curriculum Development and the Welsh Government consultation on proposals to ensure access to the full curriculum for all learners.
Consideration was given to the report of the RE Advisor, whereupon:-
The meeting was advised that Welsh Government had produced a draft Curriculum for Wales 2022 which included RE and this was currently out to consultation with various stakeholders. A cross region working group had been established and had provided feedback on the draft curriculum. Currently this feedback was being considered by curriculum feedback pioneers and it was anticipated that the Curriculum for Wales 2022 would be published by the end January 2020.
In addition, work on drafting the RE Framework was on-going and this framework would be published in draft for consultation in January 2020. It was noted that an additional meeting of SACRE would need to be convened prior to the next scheduled meeting in March 2020 to discuss and consider the RE Framework in detail.
Welsh Government Consultation
Welsh Government had recently consulted on the white paper ‘Our National Mission: A Transformational Curriculum’ which sought views on:-
- Removing the parental right to withdraw from RE (and RSE)
- A change of name for RE – the preferred name was Religions and Worldviews
A discussion, thereupon, ensued regarding the following proposal:-
(1)Remove the Parental Right to Withdraw from RE (RSE was not discussed as this was not the remit of SACRE)
If the above was agreed, should this right be withdrawn as part of new Curriculum or implemented in September 2020
It was noted that the rationale for the proposal was to ensure from an equalities perspective that all learners were provided with access to the full curriculum from 3 – 16 years (this age range was previously 4 – 18 years).
With regard to the implications of withdrawing parental rights, the RE Adviser reported that a number of cases had been deliberated in the Human Rights Court and she, thereupon, gave an example of a recent case that had been heard. It was noted that the courts had established benchmarks and had ruled that RE must be taught in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner.
There were a number of points that needed to be considered in respect of this proposal:-
- A clause was included within legislation which stipulated that RE was to be in the main in line with Christian traditions. If this was the case how could RE be taught in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner?
- In addition, if faith schools were teaching traditional religion how again could this then be objective, critical and pluralistic?
The following views were, thereupon, expressed:-
ØThe representative of the Bahá’í Faith reported that this proposal had recently been considered at a forum of all faith representatives and had been agreed as long as children had access to a variety of world religions.
ØThe representative of the Church in Wales clarified that schools were no longer referred to as ‘faith schools’but should be referred to as ‘schools of a religious character’ – the Church in Wales was very inclusive and any child was able to attend either a Church in Wales or Catholic School.
ØThe representative of Wales Humanists pointed out that parents may send their child(ren) to a school of a religious character as it may be the only school in the catchment area and removing the right to withdraw if there was not a choice of schools available was not appropriate. She continued by stating that the right to withdraw was problematic and may increase the potential level of complaints being received. She suggested that if the proposal was agreed, that the parental right be withdrawn should take place at the same time as the new curriculum was introduced.
ØThe representative of the NAHT said that professionals would need to ensure that RE was taught in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner and also a need to ensure that consistent standards were adhered to.
The RE Adviser confirmed that if SACRE agreed with the proposal there would be a need for quality assurance measures to be in place and professional learning to take place. Currently the RE Advisor was available to undertake certain aspects of quality assurance within schools (including primary) and also there were two lead practitioners focussed their work around the secondary schools within the region.
The representative of the NASUWT confirmed that schools were already working collaboratively in terms of the new curriculum and suggested this work could also be quality assured by the network of schools.
Questions were raised around the legality of removing the right to withdraw from schools of a religious character as these may be the only school of choice for some and could be a limiting factor for a parent of a child in the school.
A lengthy discussion ensued when it was confirmed that Welsh Government would be consulting with parents on the proposal.
It was, thereupon, AGREED IN PRINCIPLE that the proposal to remove the parental right to withdraw children from RE be supported as long as RE was taught in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner and professional learning and quality assurance measures were in place. In addition, further guidance would be required to be sought on the implications of:-
- The removal of children from schools of a religious character.
- Clarification as to which organisation would legally be taken to court if the situation arose.
The second proposal to be considered was:-
A change of name for RE –
The RE Adviser reported that Welsh Government was proposing a change a name for RE. There were two options:-
The preferred name was Religions and Worldviews; or
Religion, Ethics and Values
Alternatively, SACRE would be able to propose its own name or support the continuation of the current name ‘RE’.
A discussion ensued when the following suggestions were made:-
- Religion, Philosophy and Worldviews
- Religion and World Beliefs
- Ethics, Values and World Beliefs
- Religions, Cultural and Ethical Studies
- Religion, Philosophy and Ethics
- Religion, Philosophy, Ethics and Worldviews
It was noted during the debate it was reported that the RE Framework had included thinking around ‘Region and Worldviews’.
A vote was, thereupon, taken either to retain RE or change the name to Religions and Worldviews.
It was AGREED that the proposal to change the name to Religions and Worldviews be endorsed.