- Conscience and the Commons
Following his election as Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron was grilled by the media about his beliefs as an evangelical Christian. Has the focus on faith, which began with Tony Blair, reached the point where it is harder than ever to hold religious beliefs and play an active role in political life?
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The former Home Secretary Charles Clarke has attacked the Government for allegedly downgrading religious education in the National Curriculum.
Mr Clarke, a former Labour education secretary, said that RE tackled extremism.
He told the BBC’s Today programme last week: “Religious education should be part of the national curriculum so that people understand in a balanced way what all religions believe and think and how they behave.”
He claimed that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, did not want to include religious education in the National Curriculum, adding this was a “serious problem”. But a spokesman for the Department for Education hit back pointing out that RE was a compulsory part of the curriculum.
“Religious Education is vitally important to help children develop an understanding of different faiths and cultures,” said the spokesman. “It is also part of schools’ activity to meet their legal duty to promote young people’s spiritual, moral and cultural development.”
Charles Clarke, a visiting lecturer on religion and faith at Lancaster University, is co-founder of the Westminster Faith Debates, a forum for discussion about research into religion. Under Mr Gove RE was excluded from the English Baccalaureate Certificate, a performance measure at GCSE level which focuses on student attainment in key subjects, and funding for RE students training for their Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PCGE) was dropped.