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Religious education in schools is 'a priority' say MPs

17 February 12 05:54
Hand up in classroom
By Judith Burns
Education reporter, BBC News

MPs have set up a new group to safeguard the teaching of religious education to pupils in England.

The all party parliamentary group on RE wants the subject to be treated as a priority.

Last year 115 MPs signed a motion demanding a debate on including RE GCSE in the English Baccalaureate.

A government spokesperson welcomed the new group but said "the English Baccalaureate will not prevent schools offering RE GCSEs".

Stephen Lloyd MP who will chair the group said the group would provide a real insight into the value of RE.

"In today's world where our children can be open to an enormous amount of misleading information I believe it is absolutely essential they are taught about different cultures and religions by trained, experienced RE teachers, allowing children to make informed choices," he said.

Mr Lloyd, a Liberal Democrat, tabled last year's early day motion on RE after the government left it out of the English Baccalaureate award to teenagers who get five good grades in key named GCSEs.

The subjects in the award are English, maths, science, a modern foreign language and a humanities subject - either geography or history.

Supporters of RE want to see it included in the humanities category.

'Under fire'

The new group has the support of a number of faith groups and RE teaching associations.

John Keast, chair of The Religious Education Council of England and Wales, said: "Recently the RE community has felt under fire and this represents an important step to give the subject a strong profile amongst parliamentarians."

"The coalition government is making policy decisions about academies, the national curriculum, qualifications and even teacher training provision.

"Directly or indirectly, all these will challenge how RE is taught to young people", he added.

The spokeswoman at the Department for Education said: "RE remains a statutory part of the school curriculum for every student up to 18. It is rightly down to schools themselves to judge how it is taught."

"We have been clear that pupils should take the GCSEs that are right for them and that we look to teachers and parents to help pupils make the right choice", she added.

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