Parents in the UK currently have the right to pull their children out of religious education lessons, but senior teachers warned at the weekend that the rule is undermining their work.
The National Association of Head Teachers passed a motion, almost unanimously, that calls on the executive of the NAHT:
To negotiate with the Department for Education to revoke the existing legal framework which entitles parents to be able to withdraw their children from Religious Education.
Speaking in favour of the motion to strip parents of the right to withdraw their children from RE, Hilary Alcock, head teacher of Buntingsdale Primary School and Nursery in Shropshire, above, said schools needed to show that:
They respect what is important to pupils and make RE and entitlement for all. Parents may know their children best, but they may not always know what is best for them.
What is best for them is they grow up in modern Britain maybe outside of their own experience and their child’s primary socialisation.
Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson, head of Anderton Park School in Birmingham who seconded of the motion, said RE was key to shield children from potential “groomers and radicalisers” who exploit differences.
And Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, above, told the conference:
If it’s laughable that we would withdraw our children from English or science why is it OK to withdraw from RE?
We share many beliefs as human beings and are usually very different in a few. This is diversity and a good thing. Allowing withdrawal is not inclusive, it’s divisive.
Groomers and radicalisers exploit the ‘us and them’ syndrome, they exploit ignorance and narrow views of life. Radicalisation specifically encourages only feel and do.
Learning about the teaching of love, not hate, has to be a good thing. Designing a Christmas card does not make you a Christian, visiting a Sikh temple does not make you a Sikh, being interested in Ramadan does not make a Muslim. They make you a participant in life.
Tony Hegarty, an NAHT member from Liverpool, said some parents used the rules to get their children out of certain aspects of religious education.
It saddens me to say that sometimes parents only exercise the right to withdraw children from RE when the topics being studied are Hinduism, Judaism or Islam, and that I think is an extremely divisive mechanism.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn