So Lord Nash seems to have successfully stirred up that frequent re debate about local v National and the role of SACREs and the like….This inevitably becomes muddied in the legal waters of the status of RE…
Here is my view of what should happen, a view which I have held with increasing certainty for a few years, and one which I thought we were coming close to when Mark Chater was at QCA.
SACREs have existed in some places since the 1944 Education Act made Religious Instruction compulsory for all students in maintained schools, but it was only in the 1988 and 1993 Acts that their legal duties became as they are now. If those parts of those Acts giving SACREs legal obligations were repealed, SACREs in some places might continue to support RE, and possibly grow in that role as they sell their services to schools, academies and LAs, probably on a regional basis. With a more flexible approach to membership, they might not require councillors, or retired methodist head teachers to fulfil quotas, but would (I imagine) be increasingly made up of serving, committed teachers, advisors and consultants; those best equipped to support school RE. In other places, where SACREs now essentially exist simply to fulfil a legal role, and actually do little real support or monitoring of RE, they would disappear.
There should be a distinction made between RE and RI. RE would be governed by a National Curriculum document. It would retain the compulsory status it currently enjoys, or perhaps take its place alongside history and geography in terms of how long it must be studied for. It would not have a parental right of withdrawal. Faith schools would have to teach NC RE, which would have as one of its objectives a countering extremism role, but as part of a proper academic study of faith, religion, world religions and beliefs.
RI would include those aspects of faith nurture which schools with a religious character seek to impart to their students. RC, CE, Muslim and other faith based schools would be able to teach this RI alongside RE, not instead of RE. A parental right of withdrawal from these RI lessons would be maintained.
Probably far-fetched, and politically too hot a potato to ever happen, but an improvement on the current state, in my humble opinion.
Paul Smalley is a SOLSTICE fellow, Senior Lecturer and course leader for BA (Hons.) Secondary Religious Education with QTS at Edge Hill University. He can be found on Twitter @PabloPedantic