Diverse experiences and common vision : English students' perspectives on religion and religious education
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- Publisher: Waxmann Verlag
The thoughts and reflections of the students reported in this chapter cannot be fully understood without some background knowledge of the relationship between religion and education in publicly funded schools in England. Religion has always been a significant component in English schools, churches and religious foundations having in past centuries been the prime movers and providers of education. With the introduction of universal primary education in 1870 and in subsequent education acts, the government adopted a partnership approach with state and church working together to ensure educational provision for all the nation’s children. The new state schools were designed as an expansion of the work of the church schools rather than as a secular counter-balance to it and so the incorporation of elements of religion was not seen as contrary to the aims of schools outside the church sector. Religious education has always been part of the state school curriculum and the statutory right of all school pupils to religious education was reconfirmed in the 1944 and 1988 Education Acts. In addition to religious education lessons, schools are required to offer daily acts of collective worship (school assemblies) for their pupils. Traditionally these took the form of Christian hymns, prayers and Bible stories but today they often use material from a variety of religious and cultural traditions, deliver moral messages of general application, or become occasions for the celebration and reinforcement of the school’s communal identity. In addition some schools without religious foundation see building links with local churches and faith communities as an important part of their involvement with the neighbourhood they serve.
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