Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead produced the report 'A New Settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools' as part of the Westminster Faith Debates.
The Association of Christian Teachers is deeply disappointed with the first recommendation in the report that the daily act of collective worship that must be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character should be abolished.
Schools are tasked for providing for the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development of children - one of the ways it can do this is through a Collective Act of Worship of a broadly Christian character. In schools the Act of Collective Worship can give a pause in the day for children to reflect on God and when done well have a sense of wonder and awe. Schools are often such frenetic places these days with the emphasis continually on academic excellence. The Act of Collective Worship allows children to explore in safety the reasons for life and being and that we are all equal in the sight of God whatever our academic ability.
The sheer fact that in some schools the Act of Collective Worship is not 'done' well is not a good reason to abolish it.
Education was the 'family business' of the church - we do not want to divorce education from the church. We know there are some who would want this but this would neither be what the vast majority of parents want or good for the spiritual development of the child.
Having just had a General Election it was assumed that this debate would not come up in this Parliament.
Currently it is the law that the Daily Act of Collective Worship, wholly or mainly of Christian character takes place one wonders why Ofsted doesn't report on it more often in its inspections - as the role for Ofsted is surely to inspect that all statutory requirements are being met not just the ones Ofsted chooses to report on.
This Act of Worship also allows faith leaders and religious groups to be invited into schools to lead assemblies. This all helps with understanding and community cohesion.
Of course as always there is a right of withdrawal from collective worship - the vast majority of schools arrange the worship in such a way that this option isn't taken up.
We live in a Christian country where the Act of Collective Worship is a fundamental part of Life in Britain and must be protected so that all our children can explore their spiritual dimension and are better able to understand the reason for life.
The second recommendation was that a National Religious Education syllabus be determined. The current way of designing an RE syllabus is by using local Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education. This currently is problematic because of the demise of Local Authorities and their inability in many cases for them to provide the robust support and guidance needed to a local SACRE.
Whether a local or national syllabus is agreed - it should be 'major religions' and not 'world views' that are studied. There is a place in the curriculum for the study of 'world views' but it is not in 'religious education' because they are not 'religions'.
The current major problem with using either a locally agreed or nationally agreed RE syllabus is that most children never finish it. This is because if they move to an Academy or Free School or Faith School it is likely to be a different syllabus. This is creating problems with community cohesion and understanding and must be addressed.
The third major set of recommendations are around 'faith schools'. It must be remembered that most of these schools are oversubscribed and the demand from parents is for more of these schools. Admissions criteria for faith schools is always under discussion and how to juggle the right of families of faith for admission with also serving the local community. The answer is probably simple expand the number of faith schools.
Faith schools must be allowed to continue to discriminate in their employment or it wouldn't be a faith school. (If you went to buy a loaf of bread from a baker and found they were only selling meat you would feel cheated - likewise if you enrolled your child in a faith school and it was being run by atheists you would also feel cheated).
The agenda to take faith and religion out of our schools is a frightening one as it would cause much harm to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of many children.
This report whilst opening a useful debate about how best Religious Education can be provided for our children seems to completely miss the need children have to explore their spiritual dimension through worship.
Director - Association of Christian Teachers 20/06/15.