A landmark education Bill that will make the curriculum in Wales fully inclusive of humanism has passed the final stage in the Senedd and will become law. Wales Humanists, which has long campaigned for humanism to be taught on an equal footing with religions in the school curriculum, welcomed the news, calling it a huge success for inclusive education. Our Member Humanists UK has called for the rest of the UK to follow Wales’s lead.
But there is more. In addition to explicitly broadening the scope of the subject, the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill will change the name ‘religious education’ (RE) to ‘religion, values, and ethics’ (RVE). It will also clarify that humanists may sit on the bodies that oversee and develop the syllabus (known as SACs – renamed from SACREs – and ASCs).
The Bill will also introduce an array of other reforms. These include the introduction of objective, age and developmentally appropriate relationships and sexuality education (RSE) for all pupils aged 3-16 with no parental right to withdraw, and placing a duty on schools to promote knowledge and understanding of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Parents whose children attend voluntary aided faith schools will also be given the right to have them taught objective RVE lessons in line with the inclusive syllabus taught in other schools, rather than faith-based lessons.
Kathy Riddick, Wales Humanists Coordinator, commented:
“We are absolutely delighted that the Senedd has passed this Bill and that, after many years of campaigning by Wales Humanists, humanism will be put on an equal footing with religions throughout the curriculum. This is a huge success for inclusive education and Wales is very much leading the way. We congratulate the Government for its achievement.”
Andrew Copson, Humanists UK Chief Executive, commented:
‘The same legal reasons that Wales has reformed the archaic law on RE in accordance with the Human Rights Act apply across the rest of the UK too, as do all the educational arguments. Every contemporary justification for teaching about religions – its contribution to social cohesion and mutual understanding, its presentation of a range of answers to questions of meaning and purpose, its role in educating about the history and present culture of humanity, and its role in the search for personal identity and values – applies equally to teaching about the humanist approach to life. This only becomes more true as the share of the population taking a humanist approach continues to balloon.
“Wales is now a shining example of an inclusive curriculum in religious and non-religious worldviews, but the same archaic law that is being swept away in Wales still applies in England, and the law in Northern Ireland is even more exclusive. We urge the Governments of the other nations of the UK to follow Wales’ lead and make their curricula broad, inclusive, and relevant to all.”
Alastair Lichten, Head of Education at the National Secular Society, said:
“This landmark piece of legislation will give pupils across Wales access to a more objective way of learning about religion and belief. But government concessions will mean religious groups’ interests continue to enjoy a privileged input into this subject area – and to shape the way it’s taught in many faith schools.
“All children should be entitled to an impartial and pluralistic education on religion and belief. Policy makers across the UK should work to make this a reality. We also welcome the Welsh government’s move to make relationships and sexuality education statutory. This represents a significant step forward for children’s rights.”