Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Tuesday, 17 May 2011 15:02 UK

MPs debate the role of religious education in schools

A proposal to exclude religious education (RE) from the list of compulsory humanities subjects in the new English Baccalaureate has been criticised by MPs, during a Westminster Hall debate on 17 May 2011.

The new qualification - announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove - requires pupils to achieve at least a grade C at English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography.

Opening the debate, Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said its exclusion could have "unintended consequences".

She said that one in three schools were already reducing the amount of resources and teachers dedicated to teaching RE.

She was backed up by Labour's Siobhain McDonagh who said that RE was a useful tool in "challenging radicalism".

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh attacked the "missionary zeal of obsessive secularists" for leading to a diminished emphasis on RE teaching.

Mr Gove has already said that he will "take on board" concerns about GCSE subjects excluded from the original proposals.

Winding up the debate, Education Minister Nick Gibb said that RE should be part of a "broad and balanced curriculum" and that he wanted to "get away from the mentality that a subject is only important if it is mentioned in the National Curriculum."

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