Religious Education GCSE + non-religious world views explained

The High Court has rule that the Education Secretary has made “an error of law” when she left “non-religious world views” out of the new religious GCSE. The case was bought by three families and backed by the British Humanist Association, who claimed that the new approach was failing to reflect the pluralistic nature of the UK.

Expert reaction and explanation of how the content of the RE curriculum is decided from Paul Smalley, Senior Lecturer in Religious Education, Edge Hill University where he leads the undergraduate secondary RE course. He is also Vice Chair of the National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education:

“Whilst non-religious world views have been part of the QCA National Non-Statutory Framework of 2004 and the RE Council’s non-statutory national curriculum framework for RE as part of their Review of Religious Education in 2013, the number of schools who provide a systematic study of the tenets and philosophies of Humanism are very small.

Under the current GCSE arrangements many schools will teach aspects of Humanism, or other non-religious world views as a contrast to the religious views of one of the principal religions (most frequently Christianity and/or Islam).

The content of RE is decided locally by an Agreed Syllabus Conference. The legislation states that “Every locally agreed syllabus must reflect that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian, while taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain. The law does not define what the principal religions represented in Great Britain are. ASCs [agreed syllabus conferences] can decide which are the principal religions represented in Great Britain, other than Christianity”. It is interesting that this judgement appears to define principal religions, and to include non-religious worldviews in that definition.”

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