Fiona, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education, has raised the importance of religious education, in a House of Commons debate. Fiona Bruce MP praised the excellent work done by Religious Education teachers across the country, but added that when schools do not deliver high quality RE, it can have ‘a lasting detrimental impact on the extent of children’s ability to understand and engage with religion…[and] to engage intelligently and positively with the diverse society round about them.’
Speaking in the debate, Fiona said:
‘As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education, I am aware of the highly dedicated number of RE teachers across the country. Yet, as our report Improving Religious Literacy: A contribution to the debate highlighted, over recent years RE has not been given the priority it should have had in schools. For many children today, RE serves as the main or sole space in which they encounter and discuss different religious beliefs, values, and meaning. Poor quality RE can have a lasting detrimental impact on the extent of children’s ability to understand and engage with religion. In turn, this can impact upon their ability throughout life to engage intelligently and positively with the diverse society round about them. As a submission to us from members of the University of Chester’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies stated: ‘Religious literacy enables willingness and ability to live with religious and cultural tensions and with conflicting beliefs and practices. It supports social cohesion by providing safe spaces where different views can be aired, listened to and engaged with without the pressure to conform to an overall perspective.’
Good religious education will help promote community cohesion – critical, as the shape of our local communities is changing. I am pleased that the current Secretary of State for Education appreciates this, noting recently ‘It is mandatory for all state funded schools to teach RE and it is important that they do this well. Good quality religious education not only helps schools meet their legal duty to promote children and young people’s spiritual and moral development. It also gives them knowledge of the values and traditions of Britain and other countries, and so fosters mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.’
And as Lord Alton has said, ‘Religious literacy and understanding of faith and no faith, the honouring of difference, the determination to understand one another and to reconsider bigotry, prejudice and caricatures, must surely be at the heart of how we form tomorrow’s citizens.’
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education recently held a large public meeting on ‘Excellence in RE’, where attendees heard from experts and practitioners from across the country.
Speaking following the debate, Fiona Bruce MP said:
‘Religious education has never been more important, and sadly we see every day the extent of religious illiteracy everywhere from workplaces, to politics, to social media. It is therefore essential that the Government and schools across the country continue to look at ways to ensure that every child receives high quality religious education, focussing on the real ways in which religious belief impacts the life of believers, in their thinking, actions, and patterns of life. There are many excellent RE teachers across the country, and I hope that we can see, in the coming years, more and more RE teachers with the necessary training and specialist knowledge to ensure every student in the country receives the high quality RE which is an essential part of their education.’.