Religion must be in key school exam, insist faith leaders – Rachel Williams – Observer
January 23 2011, 11:14am
Religious leaders and theologians have condemned the decision to leave religious education off the list of GCSEs that go towards the controversial new English baccalaureate.
The chairman of the Church of England's education board, the Bishop of Oxford, the Right Rev John Pritchard, said that failing to take the study of religion seriously was "highly dangerous" at a time when groups such as the English Defence League (EDL) were staging violent protests against British Muslims.
Annual league tables on schools' performance published last week measured the proportion of pupils obtaining the English bac, which is awarded to teenagers who achieve GCSEs at grade C or above in English, maths, science, a foreign language and a humanities subject (history or geography) – but not in RE.
Pritchard said: "The Church of England is pretty astonished at the omission of RE. I want to fire a warning salvo that there will be huge objection from the church and many other parts of society if it is not part of the core curriculum."
Pointing to claims last week by the Conservative party's co-chairwoman, Baroness Warsi, that Islamophobia had "crossed the threshold of middle-class respectability" and to the rise of the EDL, the bishop said: "RE is a real tool for creating that kind of cohesive community and society that we're looking for... we neglect it at our peril."