In the Sunday Times it was reported that Ofsted have highlighted the appalling standard of Religious Education in schools – something that most of us have been aware of for many years. I suppose the only surprise is that it has taken OFSTED so long to recognise the situation.
When I was serving my title in Bristol some 25 years ago a number of Christian parents withdrew their children from the local Primary School because of the unfair way the Christian Faith was marginalised. It seemed the local Imam was a regular and welcome visitor to the school for Assembly. I was invited to go and take the School Assembly but I was give strict instructions that I must only tell Bible stories, preferably from the Old Testament. It was significant that the school observed all the Muslim and Hindu festivals and few, if any, of the Christian festivals. I was told that I would not be permitted to use the Lord’s Prayer. So I refused to go. The children who were removed from the school had parents who could afford to pay and so they went to a local private school where the Christian Faith was treated properly.
I was concerned about those children who had to continue at the school and so I started a Summer Holiday Club in the school holidays which ran morning and afternoon and which was great fun for the children and, I think for the adults who volunteered to help. There was considerable Christian input which the children enjoyed but the great thing was we had so many children come, including some sponsored by the local authority. And we received a generous grant from the BBC “Children in Need”. Although this was an Anglo-Catholic Parish we had some theological students from the Evangelical Trinity College who were a tremendous asset.
Do I think the OFSTED report will make any difference? I’m afraid not. Sadly teaching Religious Education is not regarded as of any priority by most teachers. So concerned were two Christian teachers in a school known to me that I was asked to go and take a “Science” lesson on water and use this as a means to talk about Baptism. Sadly when those teachers moved on this stopped.
If General Synod devoted some of their time to considering this problem and what the Church could do about it rather than some of the other less important matters which seem to consume their time it might be possible to find ways of redressing the balance.