Jewish community leaders have cautiously welcomed moves by the government to ensure students at faith schools study at least one other religion besides theirs, but warned that “one size does not fit all”.
The Department for Education, which opened consultation on Friday, said the initiative would ensure “a more academically rigorous Religious Studies (RS)” at both GCSE and A-Level, with pupils gaining “a strong understanding of the central role of religion in Britain’s culture”.
Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner “welcomed” the consultation, saying it would strengthen diversity and cohesion. “Studying religions other than our own tests our beliefs, and ensures more confident, robust and positive faith communities in the long-term,” she said.
However the Board of Deputies’ Senior Vice President Laura Marks warned the government not to push too far, and to allow some flexibility. “We support the promotion of community cohesion through the education system,” she said.
“However, we hope that the Government will not to be too proscriptive about how this comes about as one size will not fit all. In many cases, the study of two religions will contribute to these aims. In other cases, school linking programmes will fit better with a school’s situation.”
She added: “Teachers should be given latitude in how they deliver it in their contexts, as ‘straight jacketing’ might not lead to the results we need.”
Under the proposals, which will be consulted on until 29 December, pupils would choose to spend up to 75% of their time studying one religion, but others may choose to balance the study of two religions equally.
Pencilled in for 2016, a DfE spokesperson said of the plans: “The content will help to prepare students for life in modern Britain.”