The Professionalisation of Non-Denominational Religious Education in England: Politics, Organisation and Knowledge

Article English OPEN
Parker, Stephen ; Freathy, R. ; Doney, J.
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Subject: L1

In response to contemporary concerns, and using neglected primary sources, this article explores the professionalisation of teachers of Religious Education (RI/RE) in non-denominational, state-maintained schools in England. It does so from the launch of Religion in Education (1934) and the Institute for Christian Education at Home and Abroad (1935) to the founding of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (1973) and the British Journal of Religious Education (1978). Professionalisation is defined as a collective historical process in terms of three inter-related concepts: (1) professional self-organisation and professional politics, (2) professional knowledge, and (3) initial and continuing professional development. The article sketches the history of non-denominational religious education prior to the focus period, to contextualise the emergence of the professionalising processes under scrutiny. Professional self-organisation and professional politics are explored by reconstructing the origins and history of the Institute of Christian Education at Home and Abroad, which became the principal body offering professional development provision for RI/RE teachers for some fifty years. Professional knowledge is discussed in relation to the content of Religion in Education which was oriented around Christian Idealism and interdenominational networking. Changes in journal name in the 1960s and 1970s reflected uncertainties about the orientation of the subject and shifts in understanding over the nature and character of professional knowledge. The article also explores a particular case of resistance, in the late 1960s, to the prevailing consensus surrounding the nature and purpose of RI/RE, and the representativeness and authority of the pre-eminent professional body of the time. In conclusion, the article examines some implications which may be drawn from this history for the prospects and problems of the professionalisation of RE today.
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