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Humanists UK responds to consultation on the interim report of the Commission on RE

The Commission on Religious Education published its interim report in September

In its response to a consultation on the interim report of the Commission on Religious Education (RE), Humanists UK has reiterated its support for the introduction of a national entitlement statement for RE, replacing the current system of locally agreed syllabuses, and for a change to the subject’s name.

The Commission was launched by the Religious Education Council (of which Humanists UK is a member) in July 2016 to review the legal, education and policy framework of RE, bringing together expert commissioners from a range of sectors to lead the process. In September the Commission published its interim report, setting out a number of preliminary recommendations and areas for further consultation, many of which echo those made by Humanists UK in its initial submission to the Commission. These included draft text for a proposed national entitlement, and the suggestion that the local bodies currently responsible for setting and overseeing RE in maintained schools (SACREs) should lose their syllabus-drafting function.

Broadly welcoming the findings and suggestions of the interim report, Humanists UK has recommended, among other things:

  • A national entitlement statement for RE should be introduced, to apply to all schools, including religious schools
  • Locally agreed syllabuses should be abolished and replaced by the national entitlement
  • If SACREs are to continue, humanist representatives must be admitted as full members
  • Guidance for parents and schools should be produced on the right of withdrawal to tackle the rise of withdrawals motivated by prejudice
  • The name of the subject should be changed to ‘Religions and Beliefs’, ‘Beliefs and Values’, or something similar, to better reflect its inclusion of non-religious worldviews and broad discussion of values and ethics

Humanists UK’s response also expresses concern about Christian ‘over-representation’ in RE, drawing attention not just to the privileged position and disproportionate influence of the Church of England on SACREs, but also to the emergence of Christian organisations having a hand (and a financial interest) both in setting RE syllabuses and in selling resources that complement those syllabuses.

The Commission will now consider the responses to the consultation before publishing its final report and recommendations next year.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘We are very encouraged by the Commission’s interim report, which appears to have a good understanding of the changes required to support quality teaching of religions and beliefs in schools. The subject needs to be made more relevant, it needs to be made more critical and inclusive, and it needs to become more valued, not just by pupils, parents, and teachers, but by the Government too. Our suggestions are intended to make all of this happen, so we look forward to seeing them reflected in the Commission’s final recommendations next year.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s full response:    

Read Humanists UK’s previous submission to the Commission:

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘Commission on RE calls for major shake-up of subject in English schools’:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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