The Westminster Faith Debates are the result of a collaboration between Linda Woodhead MBE (Professor at Lancaster University) and Charles Clarke (former Education Secretary and Home Secretary).
As an academic, Linda’s concern is how research on religion and belief which can make a difference. As a politician, Charles’s concern is with helping politicians deal effectively with issues of faith in a way that benefits society as a whole.
In 2012-2015 Linda and Charles organised a series of high-profile public debates in Westminster which brought together leading academics and public figures such as Kate Bottley, Tony Blair, Richard Dawkins, Shirley Williams, Rowan Williams.
These debates were informed by research from the £12m AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme which Linda directed. We are extremely grateful to the research councils and to Lancaster University for funding and supporting these debates.
The Debates quickly became a major point of reference for research and debate on religion and secularity. They have attracted media coverage from around the world. They commission and publicise the latest research, including surveys by YouGov.
Since 2015 the focus has shifted to improving the way religion, beliefs and values are taught in schools – the area of greatest concern to emerge from the public debates. Linda and Charles are now actively pursuing and supporting research, debate and reform in this area, assisted by an Advisory board made up of the following members:
Alan Brine – HMI in Ofsted from 2001 to 2014 where he was National Adviser for RE from 2007 to 2014.
Priscilla Chadwick – A former principal of both state and independent schools and Dean of Educational Development within the university sector. Chair of a major national report on education for the Church of England.
Anne Davey – Church of England Diocesan Director of Education, Oxford.
Bill Gent – Member of NATRE executive, editor of Resource, writer and researcher.
Neil Mckain – Head of Religious Studies at Pipers Corners School and a member of the executive of NATRE.
Joyce Miller – Member of the Commission on Religious Education, 2016-2018 and a former chair of the RE Council of England and Wales and of the Board of Trustees of the Schools Linking Network. A former educational professional in schools and HE.
Simon Perfect – Researcher at Theos think tank, and tutor at SOAS.
Jonathan Romain – Minister of Maidenhead synagogue and chair of the Accord Coalition on faith schools.
David Whittington – Education Adviser at Lee Bolton Monier-Williams Law Firm.