The authors of a report on improving the quality of religious education in state schools have accused the Catholic Education Service (CES) of seriously “misrepresenting” their position and have called on them to correct their views.
Following the publication of A New Settlement Revised: Religion and Belief in Schools last month, the CES and the bishop with special responsibility for religious education, Bishop Marcus Stock, reacted with outrage.
The CES said the report was “a backhand way of taking the Catholic out of Catholic schools”, describing it as “incredibly misguided”. Bishop Stock called it “unacceptable”.
Now, in a six-page letter copied to The Tablet, the report’s authors – former home secretary Charles Clarke and Professor Linda Woodhead – have replied by stating that they have “no anti-Catholic prejudice and neither does our report”.
Their letter takes issue in particular with Bishop Stock’s comments that a state-imposed curriculum, as recommended by the report, was “unacceptable” to Catholic schools and that the curriculum recommended contained “no theological content”.
“Both of these assertions are completely wrong and misinformed”, Mr Clarke and Professor Woodhead write in the co-authored letter. They added that the Catholic Church would play a role in determining the national curriculum they recommend.
“We see no circumstances in which the State can impose a national RE curriculum which prevents Catholic schools teaching in the way that they see fit,” they said.
They also write that Bishop Stock’s claim that the curriculum suggested in the report contains no “theological content” but is rather a “sociological” approach to religious education is “utterly invented and has no foundation whatsoever”.
“We can only conclude it has been written in order to mislead,” they said.