University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Editorial: ‘Conscience’, the Right of Withdrawal, and Religious Education

Parker, Stephen (2018) Editorial: ‘Conscience’, the Right of Withdrawal, and Religious Education. Journal of Beliefs & Values, 39 (3). pp. 255-257. ISSN 1469-9362

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Questions concerning the historic parental right to withdraw children from Collective Worship and Religious Education in schools in England (also known as the ‘conscience clause’) are perennial, foregrounded of late in discussions about the future shape of religious education and its nature and purpose in the English school system. Such discussions, for instance, are reflected by A New Settlement: Religion and Belief in Schools (Clark and Woodhead, 2015, pp26-27) and in Religious Education for All: the interim report of the Commission on Religious Education (pp.78-78). The arguments for the clause’s abolition seem apposite in relation to curriculum RE especially; it goes thus. Firstly, now that curriculum RE’s educational (as opposed to confessional) purpose in state-funded schools without a religious character is clear, then it is no longer necessary to give parents the right to withdraw from the subject. In effect, parents should no longer have troubled consciences when it comes to RE, because the subject’s purpose is to debate rather than to persuade, to educate not indoctrinate. Secondly, given the value, even necessity, of RE as part of a broad and balanced curriculum which prepares young people for life in a diverse society, it seems counterintuitive to provide an exemption from it. Though the logic appears sound, the matter of exemption remains a question for continued consideration and debate. It might be useful at this point to examine the history of the ‘conscience clause’ in England, as well as asking some further questions about whose conscience might still need to be protected when it comes to religious education.

Item Type: Article
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: religious studies, education, ‘conscience clause’
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
L Education > L Education (General)
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Education
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SWORD Depositor: Prof. Pub Router
Depositing User: Stephen Parker
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2018 09:13
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:24

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