I've just stepped down from the Reading SACRE to enable new Labour representation on the committee and one of the things we were working towards was a new syllabus, that will hopefully be approved at tonight's cabinet meeting. It's been typical of the way that the different faith communities in Reading operate that there was a very positive working atmosphere on the SACRE during my time on it. Mustafa Chaudhary the vice chair is right to say it's an 'oasis of peace' for councillors who contribute. It is also not the usual committee where you get the opportunity to discuss the problem of evil with 14 year olds as we did with Reading Grammar school pupils at one meeting!
Reading is really lucky to have the different expertise we have on the SACRE. As well as councillors we have representatives from a number of the different faiths in Reading, including a humanist representative and RE teachers which ensures that our discussions are both linked to the reality teaching practice and reflect the different beliefs that those in Reading follow
I believe that the new syllabus will work well for Reading, it reflects the two key aims for RE of learning about religion, very important for a town like Reading with a rich mix of religious faiths, and learning from religion to support our young people in developing and understanding the values that matter to them.
Council press release:
Reading Borough Council is set to approve a new RE Syllabus for the Borough, in line with the revision suggested by Reading SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education). The revisions reflect the faith traditions represented in the Borough's diverse communities.
'The syllabus is the result of extensive consultation with local teachers, faith groups and other authorities within the Royal County of Berkshire, as well as the expert guidance of RE Advisors Jan Lever and Jo Fageant.' explained Mustafa Chaudhary, Vice Chair of SACRE.
The new syllabus is a much leaner document, incorporating an inquiry-based approach.
'RE is about exercising higher thinking skills,' commented Rabbi Zvi Solomons, Chair. 'We expect students to understand the relevance of religion to adherents, and to see how the same values are reflected in their lives.'
An important aspect of the syllabus review has been the way in which the committee has been able to work efficiently across cultural and religious boundaries, to produce a really effective document for teachers. 'Richard Woodford, our Clerk, has helped to keep us on track through his meticulous records of our meetings,' said Mr Chaudhary, 'And our meetings are considered an oasis of peace by all the councillors who contribute."
The Report recommends that the Council approve the new 2012 to 2017 syllabus for RE.
Reading Borough Council's Lead Councillor for Education, John Ennis, said: 'We are committed to ensuring that our schools, which provide education for children who come from a wide-range of backgrounds, have a diverse and respectful religious education programme.
'I have no doubt that this syllabus will promote more understanding and help us come together as a community in Reading.'