This month marks the start of the Catholic Education Service‘s (CES) campaign for the inclusion of Religious Education in new reforms to Key Stage 4 public examinations. CES is keen to promote Religious Education as an academic subject which is at the heart of the curriculum in Catholic Schools and therefore deserves recognition in the proposed reforms. The statement below outlines the reasoning behind CES’s campaign, which will run till the end of the consultation period on 10th December 2012.
It is the view of the Catholic Church that good quality, well taught Religious Education is always and everywhere beneficial to pupils and therefore to society as a whole. Critical reflection upon the nature and content of religious belief can only contribute positively to the education of the whole person.
However, in Catholic schools Religious Education has a privileged place. The first principle of Catholic education is that parents must be able to exercise genuine choice in their children’s education. This principle has been consistently affirmed in the teaching of the Church and is enshrined in Canon Law.
It is a matter of justice, then, that Catholic parents be free to choose authentically Catholic schools for their children. As Pope Blessed John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, “The special character of the Catholic school, the underlying reason for it, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of the religious instruction integrated into the education of the pupils.”
Religious Education is not just an important facet of the curriculum of the Catholic school, it is the very core of the whole curriculum and entire ethos of that school. For this reason more than any other, the current proposals for the English Baccalaureate Certificate (which seem to exclude Religious Education from the core curriculum) are profoundly troubling.
In our view, current GCSEs in Religious Studies would benefit from reform. Pupils already benefit enormously from their study of GCSE RS, and it is a subject which, given the chance, can more than hold its own in a reformed system of examinations. Allowing Catholic schools to place Religious Education at the heart of the curriculum through an enriched English Baccalaureate is one way to achieve this.