Posted: Wed, 04 Aug 2021
My daughter's Catholic school says RE is required for all students, undermining her choices elsewhere. This shows the need for secular schooling, says Chris from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
My two children attend our local state secondary school, which is a Catholic academy. This is far from ideal, but it is close to where we live – within walking distance. Our nearest non-faith option is the other side of town. Like many families we simply chose the closest option, to avoid an unnecessary daily commute.
Until now, attending a faith-based school has not caused too many problems. We've tried to ensure that our children are aware when they are being preached to and are capable of differentiating this from teaching. In lessons about ethics, they know how to express their views and the school has not discouraged this.
However, my daughter recently had to choose her GCSE options for this year. Her ambition is to eventually become a vet, but in recent years she has also developed an interest in theatre and the arts. Ideally, she would choose a set of GCSE subjects that support her long-term career goals while also allowing her to explore her artistic interests.
Unfortunately, the school says RE is a required subject for all students. It strongly discourages the right to withdraw and won't allow her to take another class she might really love in that timetable slot. At a time when it is critically important that she is fully engaged with school and able to fully explore the person she is becoming and the passions she is developing, the Catholic nature of the school is forcing her to waste time on a subject she has little interest in.
We asked the school to let her drop RE. I worry that forcing her to drop something else will not only make her resent school, she could also miss out on future opportunities that she might have enjoyed in the arts or science.
RE should improve her knowledge of the wide array of religions and cultures that make up our diverse world. More understanding of all of our fellow humans is very important. But large parts of the subject in a Catholic school are taught from a denominational perspective. This often feels disconnected to those who don't share the faith.
And we could better encourage mutual understanding by requiring all schools to be secular and faith-neutral, and to accept children from all backgrounds and religions. The way to teach children about the beauty of diversity is not to put them in an environment based on a single religion and then force them to take a subject that will hopefully broaden their horizons a bit. It is to avoid the problem in the first place by ensuring that all schools are open and diverse and equally welcoming to all.
No more faith schools, please.
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