A new Religious Education (RE) Directory for Catholic schools, colleges and academies in England and Wales has been launched at an event in Westminster.
The directory was introduced at Cathedral View on 25 January by speakers including Dr Margaret Carswell, Senior Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University; Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education; the Rt Rev Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds and Chairman of the Catholic Education Service (CES); and Paul Barber, CES Director.
Titled To Know You More Clearly the directory sets out the purpose of RE from Early Years Foundation Stage to Year 9 and features a programme of study with a model curriculum, corresponding to the six half-terms of the school year.
The new directory replaces previous editions published in 1996 and 2012, and states that RE is to be taught for at least 10% of curriculum time up to age 16 in Catholic schools and academies, and 5% in sixth forms.
It was drafted by experts including the late Professor Anthony Towey, Head of Theology, Philosophy and History at St Mary’s University; CES Religious Education Adviser Philip Robinson; Senior Policy and Education Adviser Dr Nancy Walbank; and representatives of the Association of Teachers of Catholic Religious Education and the National Board of Religious Inspectors and Advisers.
Based on the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council and rooted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the objective of the curriculum is religiously literate and engaged young people, with the knowledge, understanding and skills to reflect spiritually, think ethically and theologically, and recognise the demands of religious commitment in everyday life.
In his preface, Bishop Marcus writes: “As well as seeking to assist parents with the education and religious formation of their children, Catholic schools strive also to be of service to society. Religious education plays its part in this endeavour by enabling all pupils to be confident and secure in their religious faith and knowledgeable and respectful of other religions, and so play a crucial role in building a cohesive society.
“This new edition of the Religious Education Directory strives to embody these inspiring objectives.”
Baroness Barran thanked those present and highlighted “the important role Catholic schools, and schools with a religious character more generally, play in giving children a moral compass, guiding them with values that will be integral not only through their school journey, but beyond that into adulthood, into the workforce and into society.”
Other attendees at the launch included Schools Commissioners from the Catholic dioceses; and representatives from the Church of England Education Office; Board of Deputies of British Jews; Religious Education Council; National Association of Standing Advisory Councils of Religious Education; Culham St Gabriels; Catholic Union; and from the London Jesuit Centre.
While nurturing the faith of Catholic pupils, the curriculum prepares all pupils to play their part as critical citizens in a plural and diverse culture. It develops in them a dialogical attitude, through the content that is presented and through the modelling of respectful dialogue in class, a particularly powerful witness in a context where social media has had such a detrimental impact on the civility of public discourse.
Topics covered include the relationship between faith and science; the problem of evil; nature of human freedom; rights of the unborn; plight of refugees and asylum seekers; war and peace.
There is also a focus on the beauty of Catholicism and its influence on culture through art, music, literature, science, and architecture, equipping young people to engage with the Church beyond intellectual remits, and approach the transcendent.
A series of training workshops on the directory and model curriculum for dioceses are also being planned to take place throughout the year.