extract from the Summer issue of the NASACRE bulletin : http://www.nasacre.org.uk/downloads/Newsletters/Newsletter_31.pdf
EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED OR NOTHING HAS CHANGED
Having had some time off this year, due to poor health I have found returning to the special world of RE and Collective Worship especially interesting. In one sense, nothing has changed; there are no plans to change legislative requirements either in RE or Collective Worship. (A senior DfE official reaffirmed this recently at the national RE advisers’ conference). There are no plans to abolish SACREs and no plans to knowingly diminish RE. Yet somehow, it feels everything has changed. I have often heard the phrase ‘unintended consequences’ in terms of the coalition government’s approach to RE.
The decision on the 20 July, which excluded RE from the English Baccalaureate, is
however an intended act and a hammer blow for the subject. My own view was that RE should never have been seen as part of the Humanities group, but we should be in the EBacc as a freestanding subject in our own right. One of the reasons given for not including RE in the EBacc is that it’s already a statutory subject. That is one of the central reasons why it should be in the EBacc!
In my opinion, we are the only statutory ‘academic’ subject not in the EBacc! It will be really important for SACREs to monitor closely the impact this decision will have on GCSE entry numbers in LA schools.
However, I do think out of this sense of crushing disappointment good things have emerged. The most important is that real sense of common purpose the RE community (brilliantly led by NATRE – National Association of teachers of RE) gained in supporting RE in the EBacc. It is no mean feat to gain well over 100,000 signatures and well over 100 MPs signing an early day motion in support of RE.
There has been some positive press coverage too which has raised the profile of RE and increased public understanding of the subject.
The challenge now – wrestling with paradox I think there are a number of issues which directly impact on SACREs as a result of current government priorities;
The drive to support academies and free schools will inevitably have an impact on the work of SACREs. It’s possible that in the future LAs and SACREs will produce an Agreed Syllabus that no school in the LA will need to use because they are all academies!
Although academies are, clearly, individual independent entities, I think it’s vital that SACREs maintain links with academies (co-opted membership?) and encourage the use of the local Agreed Syllabus.
The financial impact on LAs has been considerable and has a knock on effect in terms of the levels of professional and administrative support for SACREs to function effectively.
The diminution of Every Child Matters and Community Cohesion has lessened RE’s pivotal role in these important areas. There is of course scope for SACREs to link into the growing ‘Big Society’ agenda and the revamped Prevent strategy.
I think it’s critical that in these challenging times SACREs are pro-active. I would include the following approaches:
Make full use of the brilliant compendium album for Celebrating RE (details on the NASACRE website) to generate ideas for building SACRE’s profile with schools and faith and belief communities.
Keep up the political pressure to ensure RE is not frozen out of significant developments in education. I am disappointed that RE is not included in the National Curriculum review. In my previous job as RE Adviser at QCA I had the privilege of being centrally involved in developing the non-statutory national framework. That document is now seven years old and would benefit from review!
Build partnerships with schools through curriculum projects. I am privileged to be in a LA which gives SACRE a high profile. In the last two years, Devon SACRE has produced the following:
Primary and secondary RE handbooks
The Rainbow project (a king, the RE equivalent of healthy schools award where children and young people receive a certificate of achievement based on the colours of the rainbow which match level descriptions (red = level 1, orange = level 2 etc).
Guidance on Community Cohesion (especially the role of faith and belief communities)
RE in the Early Years
A new DVD ‘It matters to me’ where young people in Devon, from a wide range of Faith
and belief communities, (including Bahá’í and Humanist) share their thoughts ideas and
experiences in relation to the six key areas of learning reflected both in national
guidance and many Agreed Syllabuses. (Beliefs, Teachings and Sources; Practices and
ways of Life; Forms of Expressing Meaning; Identity, Diversity and Belonging; Meaning
Purpose and Truth; Values and Commitments).
All of these projects have enabled Devon SACRE to build a strong partnership with schools and have a positive impact on the central role of any SACRE which is to improve the quality of learning in RE and collective worship.
These projects have only happened though because of a clearly costed development plan which reflects key issues in both RE and the wider education community. The NASACRE website has a clear and very helpful set of statements about developing quality administrative and professional support for SACREs.
Building positive partnerships with other groups (our new DVD ‘It matters to me’, was
developed in partnership with the Devon Faith and Belief Forum, FaithNet South West and the Media Studies department at Plymouth University) who have an active interest in issues of faith and belief.
Hold at least one public event annually, which heightens awareness of the role and work of SACRE. Devon SACRE, again in partnership with city and county councils, plus local faith and belief groups, have involved a wide range of schools in remembering Holocaust Memorial Day. This has had a powerful effect both on pupils and the wider public.
I was really disappointed to have missed the NASACRE ‘Whose RE is it anyway?’ conference which concluded Celebrating RE month (I am sure the conference was far better without my contributions!) Instead I can remember watching the human bear-baiting TV programme, ‘Jeremy Kyle’ and waiting for ‘Loose Women’ to start! (I have discovered that the sole purpose of daytime TV is to ensure sick people get back to work as quickly as possible!) It’s good to be back in RE!
One final thought – Michael Gove clearly values the importance of languages such as classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew as they feature in the EBacc. Another language is Latin. So for all SACREs now it’s time for carpe diem! (seize the day). After all if SACREs don’t protect, nourish, support and enrich RE for all our children and young people, who will?
Graham Langtree (Graham is a member of the NASACRE executive and RE adviser in Devon and Torbay). This article is written in a personal capacity. Details of all Devon SACRE projects can be obtained from Graham – email@example.com or Tel 01392 384831.