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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 09:07 GMT
Faith schools broaden RE teaching
Faith school
Faith leaders emphasise the potential for personal and spiritual development
Faith schools are to teach pupils about other religions as well as their own, leaders of the major faiths have said.

Leaders from the Church of England, Hindu, Sikh, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist faiths have signed a joint statement to promote the scheme.

They said that religious education enabled pupils to develop respect for others and "could combat prejudice".

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said the leaders had demonstrated a commitment to promoting inclusion and tolerance.


Although many religious schools do teach some aspects of other faiths, there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

The agreement with the Department for Education means the schools will follow the National Framework on Religious Education.

The government published the framework in October 2004 but it is non-statutory.

Signatories to the statement
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O' Connor - Catholic Church
Rt Revd Kenneth Stevenson, Bishop of Portsmouth - Church of England
Jon Benjamin - Board of Deputies of British Jews
Munisha - Buddhist Society
Sarah Lane - Free Churches Association
Anil Bhanot - Hindu Council of UK
Kathleen Wood - Methodist Church
Sir Iqbal Sacranie - Muslim Council of Britain
Indarjit Singh - Network of Sikh Organisations

It encourages the teaching of the tenets of the five major religions and sets out guidelines and national standards for religious education at each key stage level.

By the end of key stage three (14 years old) pupils "should have encountered Christianity and all the five principal religions represented in the country in sufficient depth".

Those five religions are Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

In their statement, the faith leaders say religious education helps children to develop a sense of identity and belonging, and to "flourish individually... and as citizens in a pluralistic society and global economy".

It "enables pupils to develop respect for and sensitivity to others, in particular those whose faith and beliefs are different from their own, and promotes discernment and enables pupils to combat prejudice".

At least the fundamental tenets of other major faiths should be taught
John B, UK

Their statement continues: "We believe that schools with a religious designation should teach not only their own faith but also an awareness of the tenets of other faiths.

"We are truly committed to using the framework in developing the religious education curriculum for our schools and colleges."

Of 22,000 state maintained schools in England, almost 7,000 have a religious character.

'Vital role'

The controversy over the government's plans to give more schools in England control over which pupils they admit has led critics to highlight the potential for segregation by faith or other criteria.

A recent study by the Institute for Research suggested that voluntary aided schools (which are usually church schools) admit a lower proportion of pupils from lower-income backgrounds than expected from the area's social make-up.

But Ms Kelly said the best faith schools promoted inclusion, understanding and appreciation of other faiths.

"This is part of the vital role that faith schools have played in education in this country," she said.

"By promoting core values, they have also strengthened communities and our society."

Andrew Copson from the British Humanist Association said the agreement was a welcome one, but "was no substitute for educating children together".

"Our concern is that this agreement is not really worth the paper it is written on, as the signatories to the statement are not those actually running the faith schools."

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