RE is compulsory, but it’s not part of the National Curriculum. Each local authority sets up a Standing Advisory Council for RE or SACRE, for advice about RE and collective worship for its community schools. Academies and free schools do not have to follow SACRE advice.
Each SACRE produces a new RE syllabus every 5 years, and there are 187 SACREs in England and Wales. Strong, but non-statutory national guidance indicates that pupils should learn about non-religious world views too.
Most faith schools use their own RE syllabus (ignoring the SACRE Agreed Syllabus) which often means they only teach one religion and ignore non-religious viewpoints.
Under the 1996 Education Act a SACRE is made up of 4 groups:
A – religions other than Church of England, B – Church of England, C – Teachers and D – elected local councillors.
Teachers and councillors on SACRE tend to be religious; thus non-religious people may have no representation. Yet according to recent annual British Social Attitude Survey over half of the population in the UK are non-religious, 2/3 of 18 to 24 year olds.
The 2018 Commission on Religious Education recommends the subject be renamed Religion and Worldviews, and reformed to ensure inclusion of humanism. It also recommends that a national entitlement to RE be introduced. We welcome both recommendations.
We believe humanists should have legal right to be on SACREs as Human Rights and Equality Acts indicate religion should be interpreted as ‘ religion and belief’
Bracknell Forest SACRE has invited Reading Humanists to provide a volunteer, Alan Montgomery, as a co-opted member with no voting rights, unlike the other ~20 members (usually religious even though they are not representing a religion – see above) who have full status.
As well as “RE”, SACRE advises on collective worship.
The law since 1944 is that each pupil in a LA maintained school must on each school day take part in an act of collective worship unless they are withdrawn by their parents or as 6th formers they withdraw themselves.
Collective worship must be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character and not reflect any particular Christian denomination. Schools can apply for a determination to allow collective worship to be of another faith.
Humanists would like collective worship to be replaced by inclusive, ethical assemblies.