The Chief Rabbi says children should be taught about Islam as part of government-proposed changes to the curriculum for GCSE religious studies.
The reforms, which come into effect from September, require pupils to be taught about a second faith other than their own and would amount to a 25 per cent reduction of the time currently allocated to Jewish Studies.
While this is a “serious loss” for Jewish schools, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said today that the change provides “a valuable opportunity” for children to learn about a “poorly understood religion”.
A spokesman for Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “Losing 25% of the time allotted for teaching Jewish Studies as part of the Religious Studies GCSE was a serious loss for Jewish education in our schools.
“The course was, and still is, an extremely valuable tool for teaching Judaism to our children.
“However this change has provided us with a valuable opportunity.
“Although the Chief Rabbi has not issued any formal guidance on this issue, since ultimately it is for the schools themselves to judge how best to tailor their curriculum, we have had a series of positive discussions with a number of our schools and made recommendations to them.
“It is more important than ever that our children have a better understanding of Islam and that we build strong relationships with British Muslims.
“As such, the Chief Rabbi has recommended that schools take this opportunity to teach students Islam, a faith which is widely discussed, but often poorly understood in public discourse.”
The government brought in the changes last year in an effort to counter rising hate crime and religious extremism.
At the time Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, said: “It is of paramount importance that young people understand the central importance of religion in Britain’s cultural heritage and high quality religious education in schools is key to achieving that.
“By ensuring that young people learn about more than just one religion this new GCSE will better prepare students for life in modern Britain.”