There is huge bureaucracy around religious education in schools. Every local authority has by law to have a Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE), made up of four committees – including one for the Church of England and one for other religious groups. Their meetings have to be serviced by clerks and advised by experts. They are monitored by the QCA (soon to be abolished) with detailed forms for self-assessment and they are required to send in detailed annual reports. Most of them are a waste of space, poorly attended and contributing almost nothing. Scrap them.
The same law requires local authorities to have Agreed Syllabus Conferences to draft syllabuses of religious education for local schools. These usually have the same complicated membership as SACREs. The religious members are rarely experts on education so they require expert advice as well as clerking and reams of paper. The syllabuses they produce – a separate one for each local authority! – could easily be replaced by a single national syllabus which would be educationally far more satisfactory. What stands in the way of this simple reform? Religious and local interests wanting to protect their own interests!
This is a reform that the British Humanist Association has been campaigning for since the law requiring SACREs came in in 1988. It has very wide support in educational and religious circles, but politicians have been scared of touching it. Will the coalition have the courage? Don’t hold your breath!