A response to Lord Nash’s letter to SACREs

On Jan 7th, Lord Nash wrote a letter to all SACREs (Standing Advisory Council for RE) telling them just how good the job they are doing is. The full text can be found here: http://bit.ly/17r0hE7

Mark Chater encouraged those of us with an interest in RE to air our view on Lord Nash’s letter. This is my take on it.

Dear Lord Nash,

I read your letter to SACREs earlier this week with great interest. There are a couple of points in your letter on which I agree with you, however the main focus of the letter is something which I cannot agree with, and felt compelled to respond to.

I will begin with where we agree. Developing the academic ‘rigour’ of the subject is paramount. To this end, I generally support the new plans for GCSE RE as I find some of the current specifications lack any real detailed study of religion. As RE teachers, we (quite rightly) want our subject to be valued, and it won’t be until it can stand on an equal academic footing to other subjects of its type. I also agree (as I am sure most would) that RE can help to promote tolerance, understanding, respect or any other British value you would care to name. However, due to this I think that faith schools have no place in 21st century Britain (I doubt we agree here).

Now for where we differ. There is quite a bit, so I shall cut to the chase.

SACREs should play no further role in setting the curriculum for RE. They are an outdated, old-fashioned system of localism which has no place in a modern, interconnected nation such as Britain. The chances of a young person staying in one area for their whole life are much lower than when SACREs were established, therefore RE should reflect the whole nation, across the nation, and its curriculum should be national.

Collective worship (to which you refer in your letter) is nothing to do with RE, and it is fairly poor that you link the two. They are entirely separate and linking them is of now help. On CW, it just doesn’t happen any more, outside of faith schools. I spent a year on senior leadership recently and not ONE discussion was had between me and any of my colleagues about CW, or ensuring our assemblies contained acts of worship. Nor should they – why should we push any faith onto students in the year 2015.

I also object to the DfE using time and money to commission a review into SACREs and their work. What a waste of both. Save both, and push for RE to be brought into the 21st century as a proper academic subject.

Which brings me to my plan for how to improve RE, should you care to read it:

  • Introduce a National Curriculum for the subject, to replace the Locally Agreed Syllabus in each area.
  • Remove the withdrawal clause (that has no reason to exist, as we are about education not instruction). The idea that you can be removed from education as it might clash with your faith is at best anachronistic, and at worst, toxic.
  • Ensure that RE is being taught well in all schools, by making it part of what Ofsted report on
  • Invest the money being thrown at a review of SACREs into teacher education, to ensure top-class graduates enter RE teaching, and existing teachers are supported in their professional development.
  • (Not RE but…) Remove collective worship in non-faith schools. It doesn’t happen, nobody is interested in making it happen, and it can’t work in modern Britain.
  • And while you are at it, abandon AT2

Kind regards,

Mr Shepstone

EDIT – Read Andy Lewis’ response to the Nash letter here: http://tdreboss.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/sacre-time-to-move-on-to-drive.html


3 thoughts on “A response to Lord Nash’s letter to SACREs

  1. Hi – Thanks for this Mr S. I agree with you comments about faith schools – think of the outcry if we suggested single race or single sexuality schools and I also think the time for single sex schools has gone – but that is a different debate.

    I like you list – thought I would still like some space in a national curriculum for some local “flavour” (I like Bob Jackson and Eleanor Nesbitt’s work on religious ethnography which I would argue leaves space for studying the local).

    I agree very strongly with the idea of losing CW in school – like you I think this is anachronistic – however I would encourage schools to have a space in schools where children could go to have space for religious/spiritual/belief if this is important to them within the school day.

    Whilst I agree that RE is great at promoting values I think I would rather have children discussing and arguing what they think these values are (British or otherwise) rather than having them imposed by any government.

    Paul Hopkins.


    • Thanks for the comment Paul.

      I agree with what you say about schools providing a space for religious observance, and think it should be done well (ie not just ‘that cupboard will do!’) and not tucked away out of sight.

      I wouldn’t be averse to studying of the ‘local’ either – in history NC I think there is something along the lines of a local historical study, perhaps an RE NC could have something of that sort in it as well.

      I agree with you on single-sex schools as well (although I think there can be a time and a place for single-sex teaching groups within co-ed schools)


      Mr Shepstone


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