Outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has used his Easter sermon to warn that increasing secularization of UK society is leading schools to fail students in terms of religious education.
In his sermon, Dr Williams said: “There is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don’t have the hostility to faith that one might expect, but at least share some… sense that there is something here to take seriously – when they have a chance to learn about it.
His sermon comes after Baroness Warsi, a Muslim peer, recently urged Britain to become more comfortable in its Christianity and there is growing debate about the exclusion of RE from the English Baccalaureate rankings brought in by the coalition government. Supporters of more rigorous religious education in schools want it be included in the humanities category, which currently includes geography and history. However a government spokesman has said that the purpose of the new system was to encourage students to take geography or history in addition to RE, and as RE was already a compulsory National Curriculum subject it was already being well served.
Last month the Church of England released a report that noted the declining number of new RE teachers being trained and also criticized the sidelining of moral and spiritual development in schools.
Rev Jan Ainsworth, the Church’s chief education officer, said: “What we are seeing is people coming into teaching whose default understanding of Christianity is disappearing.”
The report calls for the establishment of a new generation of CofE schools, expanding the number beyond the current 4,800. The Church has already proposed creating another 200 within the next five years.
A report by the National Association of Teacher of RE has shown that a quarter of schools failed to offer the subject as a choice for 14-16 year olds last year and there is a decline in the number of pupils being entered for GCSEs in religious studies.