The Catholic Education Service (CES) has criticised the Welsh Government’s plans to impose a new “neutral” and “pluralistic” Religious Education curriculum on Catholic schools.
Angela Keller, CES Wales Adviser, said that the government risked “losing the trust of the Catholic community” if they go ahead with the plans, after Catholic headteachers wrote a public letter criticising the legislation and a majority of respondents during public consultation opposed the universal rollout of the new curriculum.
According to CES, the plans set out to change Religious Education to a “secular” course of “Religion, Values and Ethics” (RVE), and place additional legal requirements on Catholic schools, specifically, to ensure that they comply with the new curriculum.
In July, headteachers at all Catholic schools in Wales wrote to the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, to “express serious concern” about the proposed curriculum, which they believed would have the “unintended consequence of compromising the ethos of the Catholic education sector in Wales.”
The open letter opposed changing “the name and nature of Religious Education towards a wider Religion, Values and Ethics area of learning” and said that such an effort to “enforce [a] so-called ‘neutral values’ curriculum” would create a “homogeneous education system which will no longer recognise the importance of allowing children to pursue a deep knowledge and spiritual understanding of faith.”
In the devolved administration’s own consultation on the new RVE and RSE (Relationship and Sex Education) curricula, titled “Ensuring access to the full curriculum”, 60 per cent of respondents responded negatively to plans to force the changes onto all schools, and only 19 percent responded positively, with opposition coming from across the teaching sector.
The Welsh Government has already moved to advance the renaming of Religious Education to Religion, Values and Ethics in the new curriculum, which has raised concerns that the Government will publish the education Bill before considering responses to the consultation.
Addressing the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee on October 15, as the committee scrutinised the curriculum changes, CES’s Angela Keller said the Welsh Government had demonstrated a “lack of trust” towards Catholic schools.
Speaking after the evidence session, Keller said: “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.”
The 84 Catholic schools in Wales are all voluntary-aided and employ over 1,500 teachers. Of the 28,000 students educated in these schools, 54 per cent of the pupils are Catholic.
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