Humanism should be on GCSE curriculum, judge rules

The High Court has ruled that the Education Secretary made an “error of law” by excluding “non-religious world views” from the new Religious Studies (RS) GCSE.

Three families, backed by the British Humanist Association, brought the judicial review, claiming that the new syllabus gives “unlawful” priority to the teaching of religious views.

Last year, the Government announced that from September 2016 the RS GCSE course must include more than one religion.

‘Pluralistic manner’

In his ruling today, Mr Justice Warby said that there had been “a breach of the duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner”.

During the court case, lawyers for the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan argued that neither UK law nor European law require equal weight to be given to religious and non-religious views.

They said that provision has been made for studying non-religious beliefs at Key Stage 4 level (14 to 16-year-olds) and that a school’s curriculum is the responsibility of individual school authorities.

Disappointment

The Christian Institute has expressed disappointment at the ruling.

Spokesman Simon Calvert said: “This baffling ruling does not take into account that humanist ideas already dominate the rest of the curriculum – the humanists should leave RS alone.

“It is the one subject in which pupils are encouraged to think positively about religion. Children don’t have to learn about Maths in History lessons. They don’t study French in Biology. So why should pupils have to learn about atheism in religious education?

‘Apathy’

“And what are they going to study? Christianity has the Bible. The other religions have their ancient texts. Humanism has nothing like it. It is defined solely by its antipathy to religion.

“Will pupils have to learn the parable of the good Samaritan alongside the tweets of Stephen Fry?

“Will the Jewish Torah be put on the same level as a Philip Pullman novel? The Bible was written over hundreds of years and preserved for millennia, shaping western civilisation and benefitting the lives of hundreds of millions of people all around the globe.

‘Educational nonsense’

“The idea that it is should become just one more set text alongside Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great is educational nonsense.”

A Department for Education spokesman said that the judgment “does not challenge the content or structure” of the new GCSE, and that “the judge has been clear it is in no way unlawful”.

“His decision will also not affect the current teaching of the RS GCSE in classrooms.

“We will carefully consider the judgment before deciding on our next steps.”

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