Catholic school principals unite to oppose RE changes

All 84 Catholic school principals in Wales have written to the First Minister Mark Drakeford, about his Government’s proposed changes to religious education (RE).

Their joint letter asks Drakeford to stop the proposed legislation on RE, which they say “specifically targets the Catholic ethos of their schools” and strikes at Catholic schools “very identity” and places additional and unreasonable legal requirements on them”.

The Welsh Government has moved to enact its plans to expand RE’s traditional scope to a compulsory subject, ‘Religion Values and Ethics’.

In their letter, the Catholic school principals say the proposed changes fail to recognise the heritage and deep connection RE has within church schools, including Catholic schools, which dedicate 10% of curriculum time to the subject.

The change in emphasis removes RE education’s academic rigour and “reduces it to an over-simplistic comparison exercise which fails to understand the fundamentals of faith and religion”.

Almost 28,000 pupils attend the 84 Catholic schools in Wales, all of which are Voluntary Aided (ie state funded) and employ over 1,500 teachers.

The principals’ letter also says the Welsh Government’s desire to create a so-called ‘neutral values’ curriculum risks moving towards a homogeneous education system which would no longer recognise children’s legal right to pursue a deep knowledge and spiritual understanding of their own faith as well as those of others.

Most respondents to the Government’s consultation on the changes said they were against the name change of RE. They also said they supported the continuation of parents’ rights to withdraw their children from RE.

“On both of these, the Welsh Government have ignored popular opinion”, the school principals’ letter says.

Paul Barber, Director of the Welsh Catholic Education Service, says he hopes the letter “makes the Welsh Government realise the overwhelming strength of feeling against these proposals to the Catholic community.

“They strike at the very identity of Catholic schools and at the heart of the principle that parents, and not the State, are the primary and principal educators of their children.”

Serious concerns were also raised by parents and teachers about the removal of the parental right of withdrawal from RE as it infringed on the core Catholic belief that parents are the primary educators and the legal right of children to receive an upbringing in their faith.

The Welsh Government intends to introduce a Curriculum and Assessment Bill to implement these changes.

Concerns have also been raised over the lack of due process and transparency as the Government may publish the Bill before it considers responses to the RVE consultation.

According to the Welsh Government’s analysis of the Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum consultation, opposition to its proposals came from across the whole sector




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