“In recommendations that will be studied keenly by faith and schooling experts, they argue that the emphasis should shift away from merely religious education, with pupils being taught religious and moral education instead.”
Religious instruction should be banned from schools and be the preserve of Sunday schools, madrassas or the home, according to proposals by the former Education Secretary Charles Clarke for a radical overhaul of religious education and the way faith schools operate.
Legislation compelling schools to hold a daily act of “predominantly Christian” worship in assemblies should also be scrapped, the Labour former frontbencher argues in a report jointly compiled with the religious education expert Professor Linda Woodhead, from Lancaster University.
In recommendations that will be studied keenly by faith and schooling experts, they argue that the emphasis should shift away from merely religious education, with pupils being taught religious and moral education instead.
However, the report stops short of urging faith schools to abandon the controversial practice of giving preference in admissions to children of a certain religion – arguing that children of families who regularly worship in a local church should have an enhanced right to attend its faith school.
Mr Clarke, who also served as Home Secretary, and Professor Woodhead conclude: “We do not believe that abolition of faith schools is either desirable or feasible, but we think that reforms could be beneficial and properly explored.”
The Coalition published plans for reforming religious education before the general election, outlining that at least two faiths should be studied by pupils at GCSE and including greater provision for ethics and philosophy – as long as it was in the context of religion.
But in a foreword to the new report, the authors state that a more fundamental overhaul of the way religion is approached in schools is overdue, with current legislation in the main dating back to the Education Act 1944.