A New Settlement Revised

18 July 2018

On Tuesday 17th July, in the Houses of Parliament Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead launched A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools.

The Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP hosted afternoon tea in a House of Commons dining room, during which Charles and Linda presented their new pamphlet to an invited audience of academics, activists, religious education practitioners and policy makers.

They argue that the country has changed significantly in the 75 years since the 1944 Education Act, and that 2019 should be the year that legislation is updated to better reflect modern Britain.

In stark contrast to the predominantly Christian country of the 1940s, a majority of people in Britain now say they have ‘no religion’ and minority religions are continuing to grow. As a result, the way that religion is taught has changed dramatically, as has the public’s expectations of schools.

The pamphlet provides updated recommendations on how to remedy the situation – building on widely accepted initial proposals by the authors in a report published in 2015.

They argue that outdated elements within the 1944 Act are hampering schools and causing confusion.

The problems identified by the authors include:

(a)       the lack of a national syllabus for RE, in contrast to other academic subjects, which is degrading the subject

(b)       schools for which a daily “Act of Collective Worship” is not necessarily appropriate, that find themselves breaching the law or abandoning assemblies and using the time for other purposes, without any sanctions

(c)        a lack of consistency, clarity and fairness in the selection criteria that faith schools are allowed to apply.

The launch and pamphlet attracted widespread national media coverage.