The Catholic Education Service has made it clear to the Welsh Government that they risk ‘losing the trust of the Catholic community’ in Wales if they continue with their planned changes to Religious Education in Catholic schools.
Angela Keller, CES Wales Adviser, made these comments while giving evidence to the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee as it scrutinises the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill.
The Bill has caused alarm among Catholic educators because it penalises Catholic schools, placing additional and unreasonable legal requirements on them that no other schools have to satisfy, specifically forcing them to teach an additional (secular) RE curriculum.
The proposed legislation seeks to change the name of RE to Religion Values and Ethics, something that all those on the evidence panel (which included representatives from the Church in Wales, the RE teaching profession and local government) strongly disagreed with.
In their evidence, the CES highlighted a ‘lack of trust’ between the Welsh Government and Catholic schools, and that the Bill gave the distinct impression to the Catholic community that these changes were needed because something was wrong with Catholic RE in the first place.
The CES also echoed the concerns of all 84 Catholic headteachers in Wales who wrote a joint letter to the First Minister highlighting the damaging impact these proposals would have on Catholic schools.
The evidence session provided the opportunity for the CES to make the case for parents as the primary educators of their children and insisted that the Catholic community would resist the Bill’s proposals to remove parents’ right of withdrawal from both RE and Relationship and Sex Education.
The extreme unfairness of the new proposals, that would allow a non-Catholic parent the right to demand secular RE for their child in a Catholic school, but would not allow a Catholic parent the right to ask for Catholic RE to be given to their child in a secular school, were also pointed out.
After the evidence session (which took place on Thursday 15 October) CES Wales Adviser Angela Keller commented: “Everyone giving evidence represented either a State partner or a member of the RE profession, and each one of us said the Welsh Government was going in the wrong direction.
“It’s hurtful that the Welsh Government appears to see Catholic schools as the problem because we teach Catholic RE. The Welsh Government needs to start trusting Catholic schools and the professionals who work extremely hard in them.”
Notes to Editors
- Further information about the Children, Young People and Education Committee evidence session can be found here: https://business.senedd.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=443&MId=6544&Ver=4
- The Catholic Church is Wales comprises of three dioceses; the Diocese of Wrexham, the Diocese of Menevia and the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Collectively they have an estimated Catholic population of over 200,000 people
- There are 84 Catholic schools in Wales, all of which are Voluntary Aided Schools
- Welsh Catholic schools educate almost 28,000 pupils and employ more than 1500 teachers
- 54% of pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are of the Catholic faith
- On 5 May 2020, The Welsh Government opened its ‘Curriculum for Wales: Religion, values and ethics’ consultation. This consultation followed on from a previous consultation (entitled ‘Ensuring Access to the Full Curriculum’) which asked respondents to comment on a number of proposals, including a change of name for Religious Education and the intention to rescind the parental right of withdrawal from the subject in the new curriculum.
- Many teachers and leaders in Catholic schools across Wales responded to that consultation to oppose the changes, viewing it as an assault on parental rights and on the academic rigour of Religious Education in Catholic schools
- According to the Welsh Government’s own consultation analysis, opposition to its proposals came from across the whole sector https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/consultations/2020-01/full-report-ensuring-access-to-the-full-curriculum.pdf
- Despite fervent opposition the Welsh Government has moved to introduce these changes to rename Religious Education to Religion, Values and Ethics in the new curriculum
- 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
- The letter from every catholic headteacher to the First Minister can be found here: https://www.catholiceducation.org.uk/component/k2/item/1003692-catholic-school-heads-unite-to-oppose-re-changes