HSACRE - Information for Parents

Religious Education:
Information for Parents

Hillingdon SACRE


What is religious education in schools all about?

Religious education is about teaching children and young people what it is to have a faith, and teaching them to make reasoned moral judgements and evaluations of belief and practice. Unless the school has a religious foundation, it is not the role of the school to encourage or discourage pupils from believing in any particular religion. In most schools, they should learn about Christianity and the other faiths represented in the local area. They should develop skills of investigation, analysis, interpretation and evaluation.

Who decides what is taught in religious education?

Every local authority has to ensure that there is an Agreed Syllabus for religious education drawn up by local people. These people include representatives from all the local faith groups, teachers, councillors and officers of the local authority. Most schools use this locally Agreed Syllabus. It is the responsibility of the headteacher and the governors to ensure that religious education is taught in line with the Agreed Syllabus. Denominational voluntary aided schools however, plan their own religious education to meet the requirements of the Trust Deeds of their religious foundation.

The 1988 Education Reform Act stipulated that all locally agreed syllabuses must:

‘Reflect the fact that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain’.

Using the appropriate syllabus teachers determine the details of when and how religious education is taught in their own school.

Schools are supported in teaching religious education by Hillingdon Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, which is made up of representatives of the Church of England, other Christian denominations, other local faith communities, teachers, local authority officers and local councillors. They are also supported by the Adviser for Religious Education and the inspectorate.

What is the value of religious education?

Religious education is concerned with helping children learn about religion and from religion. It is not about persuading them to adopt a particular commitment. Through the study of religious education pupils will:

  • develop a better understanding of the multi-cultural society in which they live, and the beliefs values and practices of different members of that society
  • have opportunities to clarify and express their own values and opportunities to consider and discuss the meaning of life
  • develop different skills, particularly those of analysis, reasoning, judgement, interpretation and evaluation.
  • understand something of what it means to belong to a particular faith tradition and they should have respect for others who have different beliefs to their own.

Who inspects religious education?

In most schools, the Office for Standards in Education (OfSTED) team that inspects the whole school will inspect religious education as part of that inspection. In Denominational Voluntary Aided Schools religious education will be inspected by an OfSTED inspector trained to inspect denominational religious education. OfSTED publishes the reports it makes on schools; copies of these reports can be obtained from the school or found in public libraries.

Is there any point my children taking public exams in religious education?

Yes. In addition to GCSE, A/S Level and A Level Religious Studies many schools now offer pupils the opportunity to study a short course (1/2 GCSE) in religious education. All these courses are valuable and, like other subjects, are welcomed by employers, universities and other further and higher education establishments.

Religious education is useful in learning about the beliefs and lifestyles of other people. Such knowledge can help for those entering people orientated jobs, such as teaching, nursing, social work, personnel, law, law enforcement and management. It also trains students to think rigorously, to communicate effectively and to investigate, analyse and make judgements.

How can I support religious education?

Take an interest in what your child does in religious education and be positive about it.

Encourage your child to go on trips and visits to places of worship organised by the school.

If you are a member of a faith community offer to loan or give artefacts to support religious education in the school, or offer to speak to class groups about your faith.

You may wish to see a copy of the school’s policy and scheme of work for religious education, or to see the local authority’s agreed syllabus. You may wish to pose a question about religious education to the governors at the annual parents meeting of the Governing Body of your school.

What is the relationship between religious education and collective worship?

Schools are required by law to provide an opportunity for all registered pupils to worship a supreme deity every day. Religious education is not concerned with fostering worship or even a particular belief system. Collective worship may well reflect work that is being undertaken in religious education or any other subject area but the aims are quite different. Time allocation for religious education must be separate from that allocated to collective worship/assemblies.

What is the relationship between religious education and the spiritual, moral and cultural development of pupils?

Schools are required by law to enhance the spiritual, moral and cultural development of all pupils. It is expected that religious education should contribute fully to this overall objective.

What are my rights as a parent?

Religious education is part of every child’s legal curriculum entitlement along with the subjects of the national curriculum. You have a right to satisfy yourself that your child is receiving adequate religious education in accordance with the Agreed Syllabus or other relevant syllabus. If you have any doubts, you should raise them with the staff of the school or the school governors. Alternatively, if you so wish, you have the right to withdraw your child from religious education and for your child to be supervised during that time. However, in view of the significant benefits of religious education described in this website, you should think very carefully before making this decision.

Where can we get further information?

  • 1. The headteacher of your child’s school.
  • 2. The Adviser for Religious Education, Queenswalk Training and Development Centre, Queenswalk, Ruislip, Middx, HA4 0LR.
  • 3. The Chair of Hillingdon SACRE, Duncan Struthers,
    c/o Gill Brice, Clerk to HSACRE, The Civic Centre, Uxbridge, MIDDX UB8 1UW.

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