Religious Education can reduce religious misunderstanding and conflict, say MPs

MPs publish report on RE’s contribution to community relations

An inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education (RE) has found that RE lessons have a key role to play in reducing religious misunderstanding and conflict. The investigation heard that when schools provide young people with a good education on religion and belief, the potential for tension and friction in multi-faith communities is reduced.

 The inquiry found that a strong RE-based community ethic exists in many schools and colleges. Its summary report, “RE and Good Community Relations”, recommends how this approach can be made universal.

In its review of evidence the group heard from subject and community experts that levels of understanding about RE in schools are often misinformed and inaccurate. The APPG summary report is calling for:

  • Clearer school-based community relations and equalities policies on matters of religion and belief to help young people learn skills of dialogue and acceptance
  • Better and consistent good practice teaching guidance to ensure teachers are well prepared, in particular they need to be able to confidently educate on intra-religious conflicts
  • Use of the SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on RE) and other networks to promote contact between young people from all backgrounds, including through youth conferences, linking schools and intercultural projects
  • Teacher training on the use of technology, especially social media, helping forge links between young people from different religion and belief backgrounds.

Commenting on the findings of the report, chair of the APPG on RE, Stephen Lloyd MP said: 

“Religion and belief are often portrayed inaccurately. Myths and stereotypes permeate the popular media and have become embedded in the national psyche. It is vital that all young people are armed with the right knowledge and facts to discriminate between myth and reality.

“Schools and colleges are a safe and trusted place to explore religions, conflict and world views in a constructive and positive way. There are a large number of excellent RE teachers in schools and colleges nationwide who are doing an outstanding job in linking RE back to their communities. This prepares children for the challenges and opportunities of multi-cultural life, and helps them live harmoniously with others.

Ofsted no longer monitors schools’ duty to promote community cohesion, however there is an opportunity for RE to contribute to stronger community links and provide strong resource materials that support religious and non-religious diversity in our society.”

Lloyd adds: 

“This report shows how good RE, in teaching of all the world’s religions and those of none, can support a school’s broader responsibility to create well-rounded, knowledgeable and adaptable young people.”

The APPG’s report, RE and Good Community Relations, will be presented to parliamentarians and delivered to Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove on March 17th. 

Media information

Colin Hallmark / Harriet Johnson, 3:nine Communications

Tel: 0207 736 1888; 07745 914170 ; 07837 053 207; email: info@3nine.co.uk

Notes to editors:

1.     The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Religious Education was set up in November 2012 and is chaired by Eastbourne and Willingdon MP, Stephen Lloyd. 
It has met regularly and held two inquiries. This summary report; RE and Good Community Relations is the group’s second inquiry. In November 2012 it published a report on the supply of and support for teachers of RE. 
​For a full copy of the reports email info@3nine.co.uk
​ 

2.    The aims of the APPG are to:

  • Promote the highest possible standards of religious education in schools, colleges, universities and academies
  • Press for continuous improvement in religious education
  • Promote a clear, positive image, and public understanding of religious education
  • Advocate that every young person experiences a personally inspiring and academically rigorous education in religious and non-religious worldviews.

3.      The Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) provides the secretariat to the APPG. The REC is a national organisation that represents a wide range of faiths and beliefs and members include the Church of England, the Catholic Church, the Free Churches, the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and Bahá’í faiths, the British Humanist Association and professional teaching associations.

4.     A Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) is an independent body which considers the provision of religious education in the area under the jurisdiction of its Local Authority, advising it and empowered to require a review of the locally agreed syllabus for religious education.