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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

21st Century RE for All

We want every pupil to have the same entitlement to high quality, non-partisan education about religion and belief. We want to see all schools preparing young people for life in modern Britain by teaching pupils about the diversity of religious and non-religious worldviews.

We're campaigning for an end to the arbitrariness and unfairness of local determination in Religious Education and for a national religion and belief education syllabus as part of the National Curriculum.

What’s the problem?

Religious education is out of date and in need of reform. Almost thirty years after the introduction of a national curricular entitlement for all pupils, one subject remains exempt – religious education. Unlike any other compulsory subject RE is determined at a local level.

In each local authority the local agreed syllabus for religious education (RE) is determined by 'Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education' (SACREs), largely made up of religious representatives, with non-religious representatives either excluded or barred from voting.

Even worse, many faith schools don't even need to follow the locally agreed syllabus, and can instead teach their own syllabus and teach religion from their own exclusive viewpoint.

If there is a body of knowledge called 'Religious Education', which is worthy of being taught at all, it should be offered to all children wherever they live. There are simply no grounds for discriminating on grounds of geographic location or school type. If a programme of study covering religion and belief deserves to be included in the school curriculum, it should be offered to all as a basic entitlement for every future citizen. This is simply a matter of fundamental justice and equality.

Importantly, the subject must be broad, balanced and inclusive. Religious interest groups should no longer determine what gets taught. As with other subjects, the syllabus should be nationally determined by independent educationalists without an agenda motivated by a specific religion or belief.

"The structures that underpin the local determination of the RE curriculum have failed to keep pace with changes in the wider educational world. As a result, many local authorities are struggling to fulfil their responsibility to promote high-quality religious education"


OFSTED report 'Religious Education: Realising the Potential'

Get involved

With the General Election coming up, as a nation we're thinking about our future. Please consider asking your candidate to support common sense secular reforms — such as reforming religion and belief education — that will make our society, education system, and laws fairer for all.

It’s time to take religious education in schools out of the hands of religious councils. Support a national entitlement to high quality, non-partisan education about religion and belief.

Sign the petition

Find out more

Related news and opinion

Why we need a 21st century RE for all

Why we need a 21st century RE for all

Wed, 17 May 2017 12:30 by Stephen Evans

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the Education Reform Act 1988 which saw the introduction of a national curricular entitlement for all pupils. One subject alone remains set apart from this - religious education.

What do pupils need to know about religion?

What do pupils need to know about religion?

Tue, 02 Aug 2016 10:06 by Stephen Evans

In recent years faith communities have amplified their demands for a better understanding of religion in the private and public sector. But what do pupils need to know about religion by the time they leave school?

Religious education reform: mistakes of the past must be avoided

Religious education reform: mistakes of the past must be avoided

Fri, 04 Dec 2015 09:28 by Alastair Lichten

Despite many RE teachers doing their best under difficult circumstances, a growing consensus now recognises that religious education in schools needs a rethink. Alastair Lichten looks at the latest report calling for reform.

Let Ofsted inspect religious education in faith schools

Let Ofsted inspect religious education in faith schools

Wed, 09 Sep 2015 11:19 by Stephen Evans

Religious education should receive the same scrutiny as any other area of the curriculum – and be inspected by Ofsted, argues Stephen Evans.

Let’s stop confusing education with religious inculcation

Let’s stop confusing education with religious inculcation

Fri, 03 Apr 2015 10:02 by Stephen Evans

The blurring of the distinction between education and religious inculcation is getting in the way of young people receiving good quality objective education about religion and belief, argues Stephen Evans.

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