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Keep the Act of Worship.

Charles Clarke and Linda Woodhead produced the report 'A New Settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools' as part of the Westminster Faith Debates.

The Association of Christian Teachers is deeply disappointed with the first recommendation in the report that the daily act of collective worship that must be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character should be abolished.

Schools are tasked for providing for the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development of children - one of the ways it can do this is through a Collective Act of Worship of a broadly Christian character. In schools the Act of Collective Worship can give a pause in the day for children to reflect on God and when done well have a sense of wonder and awe. Schools are often such frenetic places these days with the emphasis continually on academic excellence. The Act of Collective Worship allows children to explore in safety the reasons for life and being and that we are all equal in the sight of God whatever our academic ability.

The sheer fact that in some schools the Act of Collective Worship is not 'done' well is not a good reason to abolish it.

Education was the 'family business' of the church - we do not want to divorce education from the church. We know there are some who would want this but this would neither be what the vast majority of parents want or good for the spiritual development of the child.

Having just had a General Election it was assumed that this debate would not come up in this Parliament.

Currently it is the law that the Daily Act of Collective Worship, wholly or mainly of Christian character takes place one wonders why Ofsted doesn't report on it more often in its inspections - as the role for Ofsted is surely to inspect that all statutory requirements are being met not just the ones Ofsted chooses to report on.

This Act of Worship also allows faith leaders and religious groups to be invited into schools to lead assemblies. This all helps with understanding and community cohesion.

Of course as always there is a right of withdrawal from collective worship - the vast majority of schools arrange the worship in such a way that this option isn't taken up.

We live in a Christian country where the Act of Collective Worship is a fundamental part of Life in Britain and must be protected so that all our children can explore their spiritual dimension and are better able to understand the reason for life.

The second recommendation was that a National Religious Education syllabus be determined. The current way of designing an RE syllabus is by using local Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education. This currently is problematic because of the demise of Local Authorities and their inability in many cases for them to provide the robust support and guidance needed to a local SACRE.

Whether a local or national syllabus is agreed - it should be 'major religions' and not 'world views' that are studied. There is a place in the curriculum for the study of 'world views' but it is not in 'religious education' because they are not 'religions'.

The current major problem with using either a locally agreed or nationally agreed RE syllabus is that most children never finish it. This is because if they move to an Academy or Free School or Faith School it is likely to be a different syllabus. This is creating problems with community cohesion and understanding and must be addressed.

The third major set of recommendations are around 'faith schools'. It must be remembered that most of these schools are oversubscribed and the demand from parents is for more of these schools. Admissions criteria for faith schools is always under discussion and how to juggle the right of families of faith for admission with also serving the local community. The answer is probably simple expand the number of faith schools.

Faith schools must be allowed to continue to discriminate in their employment or it wouldn't be a faith school. (If you went to buy a loaf of bread from a baker and found they were only selling meat you would feel cheated - likewise if you enrolled your child in a faith school and it was being run by atheists you would also feel cheated).

The agenda to take faith and religion out of our schools is a frightening one as it would cause much harm to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of many children.

This report whilst opening a useful debate about how best Religious Education can be provided for our children seems to completely miss the need children have to explore their spiritual dimension through worship.

Clive Ireson

Director - Association of Christian Teachers 20/06/15.


What makes a great teacher?

What makes great teaching?

 

 

‘What makes great teaching?’ -  the new report published today by The Sutton Trust, Durham University and the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring examines what really does make a difference in the classroom.

 

Previous research by the Sutton Trust has shown that by far the biggest factor that impacts the achievement of children from poorer backgrounds is the quality of teaching. (Poorer pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared to 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers.

 

This report goes further and tries to examine more clearly what constitutes effective teaching. The report shows as you would expect that the strongest evidence of teaching that improves student outcomes are where there is strong knowledge and understanding of their subject and great quality of instruction which includes effective questioning and use of assessment.

 

Two areas that the report believes are far less effective are using praise lavishly and ‘discovery learning’.

 

What is really clear is that the quality of the teaching as you would expect is so very important – and the relationship that teacher is able to have with their class and the discipline and order they are able to instil.

 

Lesson observations and feedback to teachers is often poor and peer to peer teacher observation if robust is often more effective and less threatening than the top down approach. Ofsted whilst no longer giving individual teacher grades are just a snapshot in a tense atmosphere whilst if colleagues can trust each other for constructive criticism standards would surely rise.

 

It is clear the formulaic idea of what is a good teacher does not fit as every child is unique and the best teachers can bring out the unique way each individual child learns.

 

Clive Ireson

Director (Strategy)

Association of Christian Teachers


Religious freedom in schools is indeed at stake.

ACT – now to keep religious freedom in our schools.

 

There has never been a time like this. Schools were part of the family business of the church and as Christians we let it go. Now those who want to uphold faith in schools are beleaguered on every side. No there hasn’t been a change in the law surrounding religious education and collective worship. No there hasn’t been a groundswell of public opinion against how schools are run. So what has happened?

 

In the governments rush to beat extremism and in the light of the ‘Trojan Horse’ affair it panicked and has allowed some well intentioned legislation to be ambushed and corrupted by those who want religion out of our schools altogether.

 

It won’t do Secretary of State. Whilst many opposed what the last Education Secretary did at least he was not a pushover by any group wanting to get their way.

 

As Christians and indeed those of all faith communities now is the time. If all our children are to be educated in the round and their spiritual and moral growth is to be supported and nurtured in safety we must ACT NOW to prevent religious and spiritual matters from being stripped from our schools.

 

Whilst many of us have worked behind the scenes trying to uphold religious freedoms in our schools now is the time we must all stand together and ensure these freedoms are not taken away. Once lost they cannot be regained.

 

Clive Ireson

Director

Association of Christian Teachers


 

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