Saturday 19 November saw the Annual Meeting of humanist representatives on Standing Advisory Councils for Religious Education (SACREs) take place in London. The British Humanist Association (BHA) supports humanists on SACREs and Agreed Syllabus Conferences (ASCs), with almost half of the 151 SACREs in England and 22 SACREs in Wales having a humanist Representative. Thirty-four Reps were in attendance, a 50% increase on the year before, and John Keast OBE, Chair of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), was the guest speaker.
The day, which was chaired by BHA Trustee (and Hackney SACRE member) David Pollock, opened with a round of introductions from all the members in attendance. In particular, Head of Education and Promotion (and Southwark SACRE member) Sara Passmore and Education Campaigns Officer Richy Thompson were both in attendance for the first time since commencing their roles at the BHA in May.
BHA Chief Executive (and Westminster SACRE member) Andrew Copson updated members on how the national picture for RE has developed over the past year, and the work the BHA is undertaking. Mr Copson described how, in some ways, little had changed, but in other ways a lot had as the Government’s direction had become much clearer. Mr Copson discussed last year’s Education White Paper, the subsequent exclusion of RE and Collective Worship from the Curriculum Review, and the debate over the exclusion of RE from the English Baccalaureate. Mr Copson talked about the BHA’s meeting with Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP in February, during which RE and Collective Worship were discussed. Mr Copson also talked about the impact of Free Schools and Academies on SACREs, as these schools do not have to follow the Locally Agreed Syllabi that SACREs and ASCs oversee.
The floor was then opened up to SACRE Reps themselves, to give time to discuss best practice, issues faced, and areas of success. Everything from SACRE meeting attendance, to the number of determinations undertaken, and to the possibility of a legal challenge to ensure humanists a place as full, not co-opted, members of Committee A, was raised.
Finally, John Keast was invited to present the perspective of the RE Council for England and Wales, and set out the Council’s vision for the years to come. Mr Keast emphasised how good it was to work with the BHA on RE, with the BHA having been a founding member of the REC in 1973. Mr Keast outlined the challenges facing RE under the coalition government, and set out the REC’s five objectives in their new strategic plan for the next five years. Mr Keast then took questions from the audience, with all attendees very grateful for his time.
The well-attended event was considered a success by the Reps present, with many coming away with renewed determination to improve RE in their area.
Interested in becoming a SACRE Rep?
The BHA currently has Reps on about half of all SACREs, but would like to see every SACRE have a humanist present. In particular, 20 SACREs have told us that they would like a humanist to join, with another 25 currently considering the matter. If you are interested in becoming a SACRE Rep, or would like to find out more about the role, please email Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7462 4993.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.