Could could someone explain how relgious education works in the UK? I know there’s no seperation of church & state, but there is freedom of religion. Are all the RE classes about Christianity and the Church of England? Are they taught at all age levels? Can parents excuse their children from the classes? What about prayer at school events or assemblies? How is Scotland different from England & Wales? What about Northern Ireland where the schools are denominational?
I really can’t offer anything other than my personal experience. I started my education in 1990, at a non-religious state school in England. Nonetheless, it was still acceptable to learn Christian stories and hymns, though I never actually remember being encouraged to take them as anything more than fiction. After a period in Singapore, I returned to a different state school in 1996. This was explicitly a ‘Church of England’ school. We had regular assemblies with hymns, bible reading and renderings of the Lord ’s Prayer. There were also religious education classes, cumulating in the award of a Good News Bible (which resides on my University bookshelf to this day). I don’t recall anyone sitting out of the classes, but I’m sure the option was there. Again, the religion wasn’t really forced onto us, though they were trying harder than at the first school.
My mom would loosely describe herself as Christian, and though there was plenty of opportunity for me to turn religious, I never did. I’ve never found it weird that my mom would send me to a ‘Church of England’ institution, when it was simply the best state school in the area. I never regarded the classes as anything more than ‘learning about religion’, and never regarded them anything different from the lessons in over subjects, which can get very dubious at primary school level. In fact, what I’ve learnt about Christianity through these lessons had probably been more useful than, say, learning about the Tudors.
In my one year at secondary school in the UK, we had Religious Education classes. This was simply learning the fundamental characteristics of several major religions, including a visit to a Synagogue. I imagine it can get very philosophical in later years. Religion is something that has a huge effect on society, but also one many don’t take the time to educate themselves about. Those lessons filled that gap nicely, and I still find myself drawing upon that knowledge.
Religious Education is separate from religious instruction, and is a compulsory part of the curriculum. There’s a theoretical obligation for all state schools to have a “daily act of collective worship”, but this is almost entirely ignored. RE involves learning about different religions, and also has a broader approach, taking in ethical and social issues (euthanasia, abortion etc). The national curriculum for RE is here: http://www.curriculumonline.gov.uk/Subjects/RE/subject.htm
Parents have the right to withdraw their children both from RE and also from acts of worship.
State religious schools (mostly Church of England, some Catholic, and a handful for other religions) are free to focus more solidly on the practicing of that religion. They’re still obliged to follow the RE curriculum, though.
(All this only necessarily applies to England, and I think it’s all applicable to Wales. Somebody else can explain Scotland and N Ireland.)
I grew up in Scotland (1970s-1980s), and there were Catholic and non denominational schools there, I went to Catholic school (being of that denomination) you didn’t have to be a Catholic to attend Catholic school.
I only vaguely remember having RE as part of the curriculum, one 40 minute period once a week or summat, and I have no memory of what we ‘studied’ during it - except one demented teacher who used to sit and read passages out of the Bible while we slowly fell asleep :D. If it was a Holy Day of Obligation there’d be [compulsory] Mass in the Assembly Hall at 9.01 am. I vaguely remember having to say prayers when I was at Primary School, but not so much at High School (unless the Form Teacher was into that sort of thing)
I think at the non-denominational schools they had an optional RE lesson …