Religious Education in Schools Debate

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Department: Department for Education

Religious Education in Schools

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Excerpts
Thursday 18th January 2024

(5 months, 4 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab)
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My Lords, I am delighted to be part of this debate. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, is to be thanked for yet again bringing it to our attention; it is as lamentable as he has said. The two of us have contributed to “Thought for the Day” for many years, and we both know how to tailor our remarks to two and three-quarter minutes. I feel quite at odds with him in this debate where he has 10 minutes and I have three.

I have counted, throughout my time as a Methodist minister, the number of years I have spent in the governance of schools: it amounts to well over 40. These have included every kind of secondary school that you can imagine—voluntary aided, academies, state sector, comprehensives, private schools too—and the shaping of a university at Roehampton where our denominational input was of some use. Over this time where I have been involved practically in this way, the situation has become ever more dire.

Since it is required of the education that we offer to our young people that the spiritual and religious be part of what a good education is considered to be, that raises all kinds of questions. I wonder, for example, why between 2016 and 2021 no government money was spent on RE projects in schools. I hope the Minister knows why or where it has been hidden for future use. When in September 2023 a joint letter was sent by the Religious Education Council to the Secretary of State, Gillian Keegan, pointing out a shortfall in this area, within a month it was discovered that the initial teacher training bursary was to be reintroduced for September 2024 entrants. Why did it have to be reintroduced? Why was it not there in the first place?

I know that the way that we look at and feel about religion varies from person to person and that it can produce great difficulties, because people feel that those with religion want to have an angle on the educational curriculum of a school to introduce and emphasise the things that are important to them. I do not think that is the case. I am a member of the British humanist society and its APPG here for the simple reason that I, like they and all religious people, believe in the humanum and that it is our duty, wherever our values are to be found, to seek the well-being of humanity at large. I certainly do not want religion to be categorised as simply reneging on its promises or undermining its commitments.

With those brief words—my one “Thought for the Day”—I can now leave the field open for others.