The headteacher of every Catholic school in Wales has written to the First Minister asking him to rethink his Government’s proposed changes to Religious Education.
The headteachers of more than 80 Welsh Catholic schools have signed a joint letter asking the Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, to stop the proposed legislation surrounding RE which specifically targets the Catholic ethos of their schools.
With the plans uniquely affecting their schools, the headteachers have taken the unprecedented step of collectively asking for reassurance that it is not the Government’s specific intention to damage Catholic schools.
The Welsh Government plans to expand the scope of traditional RE to ‘Religion Values and Ethics’, removing the academic rigour of the subject and reducing it to an over-simplistic comparison exercise which fails to understand the fundamentals of faith and religion.
The new proposals, published in May, specifically penalise Catholic schools, placing additional and unreasonable legal requirements on them that no other schools have to satisfy, specifically forcing them to teach two separate RE curriculums without any consideration of resourcing impactions this would have for schools.
In their letter, the headteachers state that the proposed changes to RE fail to recognise the heritage and deep connection Religious Education has within Church schools, including Catholic schools, which dedicate 10 per cent of curriculum time to the subject.
They go on to say the Welsh Government’s desire to create a so-called ‘neutral values’ curriculum risks moving towards a homogeneous education system which would no longer recognise children’s legal right to pursue a deep knowledge and spiritual understanding of their own faith as well as those of others.
Prior to the proposed legislation, a majority of respondents to the Government’s consultation said they were against the name change of RE and that they supported the continuation of parents’ rights to withdraw their children from RE. On both of these, the Welsh Government have ignored popular opinion.
Paul Barber, Director of the Catholic Education Service, which represents Catholic schools in Wales, commented: “I hope this letter from all of the headteachers makes the Welsh Government realise the overwhelming strength of feeling against these proposals to the Catholic community. They strike at the very identity of Catholic schools and at the heart of the principle that that parents, and not the State, are the primary and principal educators of their children.”
Picture: A teacher writes ‘religion’ on a blackboard with chalk. (Friso Gentsch/DPA/PA).