Withdrawal is "no longer required" say heads

A study carried out by Liverpool Hope University in the British Journal of Religious Education (BJRE) showed the majority of questioned headteachers are in favour of revoking the withdrawal laws in RE.

The research published 41 per cent of school leaders interviewed said they had received requests for students to be withdrawn from teaching about one religion. Most of these requests were in relation to teaching about Islam.

Dr David Lundie, one of the involved researchers, commented:

“The current settlement, involving the parental right of withdrawal from RE but no other aspect of the curriculum on grounds of conscience, raises important questions about the wider contribution of RE to the life of the school.”

“RE is bound up with the fundamental British values of mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths, so it is hard to see how a school could support such a right without impacting on this wider duty of the school to prepare children for life in modern Britain.”

What is the right to withdraw?

Withdrawal from RE was included in the 1944 Education Act. It provides parents with the availability to remove their child from teaching some or all aspects of religious education.

In this ground-breaking study, Dr Lundie along with his peer Cr Cathal O’Siochru surveyed 450 Headteachers and RE leads. A concrete 71 per cent thought that the withdrawal element is “no longer required” in modern day education.

Through additional commentary, one interviewee commented ““Students that have been removed are the ones that need to understand different cultures the most." This implies the withdrawal law is doing more damage than repair in schools.

The survey also highlighted confusion surrounding various aspects of the law, such as excluding pupils from other curricular activities based on religious views.

Get additional support

The National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), in collaboration with the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has published guidance on tackling withdrawal from RE, available here. This document is available FREE for NATRE members.

Browse the range of membership packages available for schools and professionals. Members receive exclusive access to further BJRE articles and additional contemporary resources.

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