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Senedd committee backs Bill that will make RE fully inclusive of humanism

A cross-party Senedd committee has backed proposed changes to the law that will make religious education in Wales fully inclusive of humanism. Wales Humanists – which has long campaigned for a curriculum that treats religions and humanism equally and gave evidence to the Committee last October– has welcomed the news, adding that the Bill will make Wales ‘a world-leader in inclusive education’.

In a report on the recently laid Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, published today, the Children, Young People, and Education Committee said they were ‘unanimous in [their] support’ for the inclusion of the subject as a mandatory element of the Bill. They also backed the proposal to rename ‘religious education’ to ‘religion, values, and ethics’ (RVE) to ‘better reflect the broader aims attached to this… element of the curriculum,’ which will explicitly include non-religious worldviews on an equal footing with religions.

Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick commented: 

‘We are absolutely delighted that the Children, Young People, and Education Committee has given its support to these critical reforms. For far too long, RE has failed to reflect the diversity of beliefs in Wales, by excluding the non-religious altogether.

‘By broadening the scope of RE through explicitly requiring teaching about humanism, this Bill will revitalise this important subject and make it relevant to all pupils regardless of background. We urge the Senedd to back the Bill and help to make Wales a world-leader in inclusive education.’

About the Bill

The Bill, if it becomes law, will require that teaching and learning in RVE must ‘reflect the fact that a range of non-religious philosophical convictions are held in Great Britain’ in addition to teaching about Christianity and other ‘principal religions’. It also makes provision for ‘a committee of persons representing… non-religious philosophical convictions’ to join Standing Advisory Councils on RE (or SACREs), the bodies that oversee RE and the development of the syllabus at local authority level. These changes are designed to clarify the law in line with the Human Rights Act, according to which religions and humanism must be given equal treatment.

The Bill also seeks to ensure that as many pupils as possible receive the subject in a pluralistic, non-partisan way. All children in schools without a religious character will be taught objective RVE in line with the locally agreed syllabus, but parents whose children attend some faith schools – known as voluntary aided faith schools – will now be given the right to demand lessons taught in accordance with their locally agreed syllabus too. Such parents and children have previously been forced to choose between indoctrinatory faith-based RE and opting out altogether.

In the report, the Committee was largely supportive of the proposal to replace the current right to withdraw from denominational RE in faith schools with a right for parents to demand objective RVE. However, taking up a recommendation made by Wales Humanists, they also asked that the Welsh Government clarify why the Bill does not permit older pupils to choose objective RVE for themselves, instead of the denominational version.  Such a change would mean the proposals better respect the right to freedom of religion or belief of those pupils, thereby bringing them closer in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Wales Humanists Coordinator Kathy Riddick via kathy@humanists.uk or phone 07881 625 378.

Read our most recent article on Wales Humanists giving evidence to the Senedd’s Children, Young People, and Education Committee.

Watch Wales Humanists give evidence to the Committee.

Read Wales Humanists’ written response to the call for evidence.

Read the full Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill.

Read our most recent article on Welsh Government introducing the Bill requiring Religion, Values, and Ethics lessons to be fully inclusive of humanism.

Read more about Wales Humanists’ work on RE.

Wales Humanists is part of Humanists UK. Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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