Blackburn Diocese: 'RE vital to English baccalaureate'

Fred Kershaw
Image caption Fred Kershaw believes RE is important for community cohesion

The Blackburn Diocese has said the decision not to include religious education in the English baccalaureate for schools "significantly dilutes" the government's claim that "they do God".

Fred Kershaw, acting head of education for the diocese, also said the importance of faith education had "been proved significantly, particularly in Burnley, where RE had played a vital part in community cohesion".

The government have confirmed their plan to not include religious education when they award the baccalaureate to any person who gains five C or higher GCSE passes in English, maths, science, a foreign language and either history or geography.

Schools minister Nick Gibbs denied RE's exclusion from the baccalaureate reflected a lack of importance of faith lessons in schools. "We do regard religious education as a very important subject," he said.

So concerned

The minister said understanding different beliefs was vital "not only because of recent events in Norway, but also because of the increasing amounts of religious extremism around the world in the last ten years".

Lancashire has the largest amount of faith schools in the United Kingdom and many of the county's faith groups say existing RE funding and resources are already being diverted away into other subjects.

The Blackburn Diocese was so concerned about the then impending decision about the baccalaureate that earlier this year they called an extraordinary meeting of the diocesan synod to discuss the issue.

Fred Kershaw says the government's decision will have an equal effect on both faith and non-faith schools in Lancashire because the baccalaureate will be seen as the standard for academic achievement.

Denies downgrading

He's uncertain if this is the end of the fight. He is also confused about the schools minister's remarks that faith groups had run "a very successful campaign".

Mr Kershaw commented: "If failure means success I don't know what he is talking about. The issue is that RE is being marginalised and the wealth and richness that RE brings to the culture of our society is tremendous."

The government agrees about the importance of RE and denies downgrading religious studies.

Nick Gibbs said: "I don't think the people who fear that this is a government that is hostile to religious education are right. I think they will see over the years that we do believe in good quality religious education and the high performance of faith schools."

Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.

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