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BHA: English Baccalaureate harms RE, but RE needs reform

The House of Commons Education Committee published their report today on the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBac), in particular looking at the impact on Religious Education (RE). The report found that a ‘focus on a fairly narrow range of subjects, demanding considerable curriculum time, is likely to have negative consequences on the uptake of other subjects’, including Religious Education (RE), and suggested the Government further review the composition of the EBac at the conclusion of the National Curriculum review.

In March, the British Humanist Association (BHA) submitted evidence to the Education Committee to contribute to the report. In our submission, we concluded that ‘We share the belief of colleagues in the field that the omission of Religious Studies (RS) from the EBac may cause schools to shift focus from the subject and have a negative impact on the quality of RE being taught at Key Stage 3. However, given the patchy quality of RE currently, putting RS on the EBac without reviewing its place in the wider curriculum and the statutory provisions underpinning it, would be a missed opportunity.’

BHA Education Campaigns Officer Richy Thompson commented, ‘Currently the RE curriculum is determined at the local authority level. The 152 resultant curricula are hugely variable in quality, and many exclude non-religious beliefs such as humanism. Furthermore, most ‘faith’ schools are entitled to teach their own RE, which can be in accordance with the tenets of the faith of the school and therefore confessional. We campaign for a statutory RE national curriculum, teaching non-religious as well as religious beliefs, in a non-confessional manner. We believe these issues are more important than whether RS is included in the EBac.’

In a survey published in June, the teaching union NASUWT also found that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education and Citizenship Education face significant decline in planned provision as a result of the introduction of the EBac. Mr Thompson continued, ‘Like with RE, these findings feed into wider concerns the BHA holds about the fact that PSHE and Citizenship Education (before Key Stage 4) are non-statutory subjects with no set curriculum. We believe both subjects, the former including Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), are hugely important, and that all young people should be entitled to being taught them.

‘Going forward, we will be working through the PSHE and curriculum reviews to continue to make these points.’


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.

Read the BHA’s Submission to the Education Select Committee Inquiry into the English Baccalaureate, 10th March 2011.

Read the House of Commons Education Committee Fifth Report of Session 2010–12, the English Baccalaureate and associated press release.

Read the NASUWT English Baccalaureate Survey Summary.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on Religious Education and on Sex and Relationships Education.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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