Academics, teachers, and parents have today condemned the exclusion of study of the non-religious worldview of humanism from new English GCSE and AS and A level criteria published today by the Government. Together with the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), they have urged the Government to think again.
The draft subject criteria for Religious Studies published for consultation by the Department for Education (DfE) were widely expected to include an optional annex on humanism alongside optional annexes on the six principal religions. This followed the publication of a new curriculum framework for RE last year, endorsed by the Secretary of State for Education, which included non-religious worldviews on an equal footing to each of the principal religions, as well as the issuing of Departmental advice recommending that schools meet the new requirement to promote British values by teaching about ‘beliefs such as… humanism’ as well as religions.
Instead, the draft subject criteria allow for some discussion of non-religious beliefs in general but not the systematic study of humanism. Only annexes on six world religions are included and an annex on humanism produced by the BHA at the request of the DfE was not included.
BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘We are deeply disappointed to see no annex on humanism in the criteria published by the DfE. Inclusion of an optional module on humanism would have been just that – optional – and schools could have decided to cover it or not. But under these criteria they won’t even have that choice. Forty years of progress in RE, including last year’s RE curriculum framework, make it clear that the systematic study of humanism contributes to making the subject both rigorous and relevant. What sense does it make for pupils following that new framework and studying humanism, to then be denied the chance to continue that study in their GCSEs, alongside the study of religions?’
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