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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Religious Education and the law

RE is a statutory part of the basic curriculum and all maintained schools by law and academies by virtue of their funding agreement must provide RE for all children attending school.

Parents have the right to withdraw their child from all or any part of RE. This includes parents whose children attend a faith school. If pupils are withdrawn from RE, schools have a duty to supervise them, though not to provide additional or alternative teaching.

RE is the only statutory subject that is not part of the National Curriculum.

Community schools and voluntary controlled faith schools follow a locally agreed syllabus drawn up by local committees (known as Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education, or SACRE) comprising of teachers, local churches, faith groups and the local authority.

In voluntary aided faith schools the syllabus is a matter for the governing body to decide – and may be of denominational character. This means that a significant number of state funded 'faith schools' are permitted to teach RE from a selective, exclusive or confessional viewpoint, more analogous to religious instruction than education.

As a condition of their funding agreements, all academies and free schools have to provide RE for their pupils. The type of RE specified in the funding agreement depends on whether or not the academy has a religious designation, and for converter academies, on whether the predecessor school was a voluntary controlled (VC), voluntary aided (VA) or foundation school.

Other than for academies where the predecessor school was a VC or foundation school, the model funding agreement specifies that an academy with a religious designation must provide RE in accordance with the tenets of the particular faith of the school. They may, in addition, provide RE that is in line with a locally agreed syllabus and teach about other faiths if they choose.

Every pupil should have the same basic entitlement to non-partisan education about religion and belief, not RE controlled by local religious groups or faith schools.

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