The Education (Non-religious Philosophical Convictions) Bill [HL] would provide for the RE curriculum in schools in England to be inclusive of non-religious philosophical convictions. It would do so by amending the statutory framework for RE in England as set out in the Education Act 1996, the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and the Education Act 2002.

The bill would require every maintained school in England, except for voluntary aided schools with a religious character, to make provision for ‘religion and worldviews education‘ for all registered pupils. This would be in place of the current requirement for such schools to make provision for RE alone. It would also impose a duty on local authorities, governing bodies and head teachers of maintained schools in England to “secure due provision of religion and worldviews education” in place of RE alone. This would not apply to voluntary aided schools with a religious character, but such schools would have to offer religion and worldviews education to pupils excused from receiving RE taught in accordance with a particular religion or denomination. In support of these changes, the bill would require that representatives of non-religious worldviews, such as humanism, be included on the bodies that agree local RE syllabuses used by schools. It would also require academies and free schools to follow such syllabuses.

Similar changes have already been legislated for in Wales, following the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 having received royal assent. The act provides for a requirement for schools in Wales to teach non-religious worldviews such as humanism alongside religions, and to rename RE to ‘Religion, values and ethics’ (RVE).

In 2018, the government said that it was not convinced of the need to “radically” reform RE in England. It argued that the “potential scope of what could be considered a worldview” was very wide, and that “agreeing precisely what should be taught” as part of a national entitlement to worldviews education would be “fraught with difficulty”. Citing the suggestion in an independent commission’s report that existentialism and Confucianism could also be considered worldviews within the scope of any change, in addition to humanism, the government argued there was a “risk that religious education is diluted in an attempt to embrace many other strands of thinking”.

More recently, in July 2022 the government rejected an amendment to the Schools Bill [HL] that would have replaced RE in academies without a religious character in England with religion and worldviews education.

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