What is the law on religious education?

The Education Act (1996) requires that:

  • religious education in community and voluntary controlled schools must be provided for all registered pupils in accordance with the local agreed syllabus;
  • every agreed syllabus shall reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Britain are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of other principal religions represented in Britain;
  • no agreed syllabus shall provide for religious education to be given to pupils at a community school by the means of catechism or formulary distinctive of a particular religious denomination; but this is not to be taken as prohibiting the study of such catechisms or formularies; (this means that religious education must not be taught from the point of view of any one church or faith but that denominational creeds and statements can be studied);
  • the local education authority and the governing body shall exercise their functions with a view to securing, and the headteacher shall secure, that the religious education is given in accordance with the agreed syllabus;
  • parents have the right to request the withdrawal of their child from part of or all religious education;
  • teachers have the right of withdrawal from teaching the subject;
  • religious education in special schools shall be taught, as far is practicable, in accordance with the agreed syllabus;
  • in a voluntary controlled school, if the parent requests it, arrangements must be made for religious education to be given to their child in accordance with any trust deed or the practice followed before the school became controlled;
  • religious education in voluntary aided schools must be in accordance with the trust deed and is to be determined by the governors with the advice of the relevant diocese.

It is the headteacher's duty to ensure that:

  • RE is provided in accordance with the agreed syllabus for all registered pupils at the school;
  • appropriate staffing and resources to meet the aims and objectives of RE are made available;
  • parents receive an annual written report on their child(ren)'s progress in RE;
  • requests from parents for the withdrawal of their child(ren) from RE are responded to and alternative arrangements made, so long as it does not incur any additional cost to the school or the local authority.

The governing body is responsible for ensuring that:

  • RE is included in the basic curriculum;
  • sufficient time and resources are devoted to RE to enable the school to meet its legal obligations and to deliver a religious education curriculum of quality.

This page was last updated on 23 May 2011

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