NSS response to RVE proposals in Wales
The National Secular Society welcomes the Welsh Government's intention to replace Religious Education with the teaching of Religion, Values & Ethics and recognises the progress made towards a more pluralistic and balanced curriculum, in line with what we should expect our schools to teach in the 21st century.
However, the current proposals fall substantially short of their own ambitions. Many pupils attending faith schools will continue to be denied an objective, critical and pluralistic education. The plans will also perpetuate existing problems regarding the heavy influence of religious interest groups over the subject in all schools. New problems will also be created – not least with the introduction of a divisive dual system of teaching RVE in faith schools and the removal of the parental right to withdraw.
- The current proposals will create a dual system regarding the teaching of RVE across Wales, exacerbating a divisive approach to how the subject is taught.
- We find it difficult to see how, in practice, faith schools will run two RVE curricula in parallel and that a biased and confessional approach to RVE will still dominate in many schools – creating unnecessary segregation in the teaching of religion, values and ethics.
- We are deeply concerned at the message this dual approach would send to children across Wales and believe this runs counter to the ambitions that Welsh Government has set out to achieve with its reforms. Children across Wales should all have the same entitlement to a pluralistic, objective and balanced RVE curriculum; this should not be put at risk simply because of the type of school they attend.
We are urging the Welsh Government to reassess its proposals in order to implement a religion, values and ethics curriculum that is genuinely pluralistic and balanced. To achieve this, we are calling on the Welsh Government to:
- Implement a duty on all schools to teach an objective, critical, and pluralistic RVE syllabus, without exception.
- Abolish SACREs, so that religious interest groups do not control the subject.
- Pause on removing the right to withdrawal until the new curriculum has had time to bed in.
Following the Senedd's consultation (see our submission) the Children, Young People and Education Committee is undertaking an inquiry. Their call for evidence closes on 17.00 on Tuesday 29 September and submissions must be via their online form.
We're encouraging supporters to respond, making use of their own experiences and our briefing.
We are asking or all our supporters across the UK for their experiences and views on the right to withdraw from religious education. This will help inform our response to the consultation and wider work on RE reform across the UK.
We are also strongly encouraging supporters in Wales to write to their Senedd members about the proposals and have created a template letter to make this easier.