In a blog to be published by education website Schools Week on Monday 4th February, Sarah Hannafin, Senior Policy Advisor for school leaders’ union NAHT, and former RE teacher, argues that the right for parents to withdraw their children from religious education lessons should be removed. A motion calling for this was overwhelmingly passed by school leaders at NAHT’s Annual Conference in 2016, and is NAHT policy.
In the blog, Ms Hannafin says: “High quality Religious Education should be a fundamental part of every school’s offer. Through engaging with different beliefs and a diversity of views, pupils can develop an understanding of, and respect for others. This is vital for their life in modern Britain. Indeed, it is a government requirement of schools to promote British values, including respect and tolerance.
“But for all the benefits RE lessons bring, it is one of the only subjects where parents have a legal right to withdraw their children. School leaders get requests from parents to withdraw their children from learning about a particular religion or visiting a specific place of worship. Or from parents who feel the content could conflict with their own beliefs, thinking that RE is about trying to make all students Christian.
“Those conversations, which need to tackle stereotypes and misperceptions, are challenging to resolve. But the fact that the right to withdraw seems to be increasingly used in this way, surely means that RE is more important than ever.
“I studied, qualified, taught the subject for 15 years and remain an advocate for what a great subject it is to teach and how important it is for pupils to study it. The RE classroom is a place where all views are respected – students learn how to express themselves clearly, explain the reasons for their opinions, question why others think differently and to understand and accept those differences.
“NAHT believes that parents’ right to withdraw children from RE should be removed. It is a subject that is too important for young people to miss.”
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