A group of MPs wants religious education in schools to be optional.
They also mention that the compulsory ‘act of collective worship’ should be optional for under 16s as it currently is for sixth-formers. I believe the parents can pull their kids out of this at the moment. The phrase of choice for the report was children of “sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding”. Does that have a legal definition? Who is to judge?
I believe the committee are wrong to make RE optional. RE should be education about religion, not supporting one religion. If there is something offensive being taught it is the lessons that should be changed, not opted out of. The study of religion has as much right as any other study to be chosen by a school as a compulsory class. Many children might claim religious justification simply to miss a lesson. Surely learning about other religions is esential to ‘promote understanding between faiths’ or ‘encourage community cohesion’ or whatever phrase is fashionable amongst politicians at the moment.
On the other hand the ‘act of collective worship’ should not be made optional, it should be scrapped. The idea that all state schools, of which two thirds are non-religious, should be forced to make their pupils pray or sing hymns is ridiculous. Although it is not faith specific, it in effect tries to make all non-aligned schools into Church of England. Collective worship is for churches or mosques or synagogues, not for schools which should be educating children, not converting them.
So in conclusion, one proposal is completely wrong, and one doesn’t go far enough.