London - Arabstoday
Children’s moral and spiritual development is being “pushed to the side” because of reforms that put an increasing focus on learning facts and figures, it is claimed.
In a major report, the CofE said that religious education was being marginalised in many schools but the Coalition “seems to have no will” to address the problem.
It criticised a decision to exclude RE from the English Baccalaureate – a new school leaving certificate that rewards pupils gaining good grades in five academic disciplines, including maths and English.
The Church also highlighted a decline in the number of new RE teachers being trained and a refusal to include the subject from a major review of the National Curriculum, which will set out the key facts pupils should learn at each age.
Dr Priscilla Chadwick, a former private school headmistress and chairman of the CofE’s education inquiry, said all schools valued the importance of assessment but insisted it should not be at the expense of “nurturing the whole child”.
Speaking before the publication of the report, she said: “The current curriculum reforms seem to be emphasising more the utilitarian purposes of education.
“The moral and the spiritual aspects of educating the whole person can be pushed to the back and be pushed to the side.”
The report, The Church School of the Future, which was compiled with evidence from school leaders, dioceses and politicians, warned that the teaching of RE faced “multiple challenges... that the Government seems to have no will to address”.
It said a refusal to include the subject in the English Baccalaureate – which recognises achievement in English, maths, science, foreign languages and history or geography – was leading to a drop in the number of pupils studying RE at GCSE level.
Failure to consider RE in the current review of the National Curriculum was also having a “damaging effect on the status of the subject”, it was claimed.
In a further conclusion, the report said a reduction in the number of RE teacher training places risked preventing schools from delivering the subject properly in the classroom.
Rev Jan Ainsworth, the Church’s chief education officer, said: “What we are seeing is people coming into teaching whose default understanding of Christianity is disappearing.”
The report calls for the establishment of a new generation of CofE schools, expanding the number beyond the current 4,800. The Church has already proposed creating another 200 within the next five years.
It also proposes developing new resources for the teaching of Christianity in all schools and creating a new curriculum for Anglican primaries and secondaries.
In a further recommendation, it suggests developing an action plan to help protect the future of small rural Church schools.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, chairman of the Church’s board of education, said: “Our schools are a gift to the nation. They have been serving communities for more than 200 years and our schools are very popular with parents.
“But the report is clear that we must be careful to protect their distinctive nature, especially amid pressure from groups who would prefer that we were not involved in education at all.”
But the conclusions were criticised by secular groups.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “Public money should not be used to promote religion in this way and churches should not be able to hijack the school system as a means of proselytising among those who have no alternative but to be there.
“State schools should be for teaching, not preaching and certainly not for religious brainwashing, which appears to be what is being proposed here.”