RE absorbed in a larger subject with values and ethics
Welsh Government Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles was due to address the Board of Trustees on Thursday last week at the denominational schools presentation but was unable to attend.
He therefore returned to the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Bangor, the Rt Revd Mary Stallard, to present the Education Report of the Board of Trustees. The Church in Wales has over 26,000 children in 146 schools, 30 of which provide instruction in Welsh.
The Provincial Director of Education, Elizabeth Thomasdescribed the new Study Program for Wales 2021 as “one of the most significant changes in a decade”. It is designed to ensure that all learners will have “the knowledge, skills and experiences they will need to live, work and adapt to an ever-changing world”.
Six areas of learning are given equal weight. The humanities include religion and values and ethics (RVE), formerly known as religious education. It is compulsory, includes the requirement to teach non-religious philosophical beliefs and must be “objective, critical and pluralistic” in its approach. “No one is yet able to give a clear picture of what it will look like in a primary classroom in Wales,” Ms Thomas acknowledged.
Some reservations had been expressed, she said, as only a minority of teaching staff had religion as a specialty, but 200 leaders and teachers had now attended an introductory session on RVE. The Church of Wales has developed support guidelines for RVE in its schools. Its work has been supported by the Welsh Government and would link directly to the wider focus of the programme.
The Bishops’ Bench statement on education stresses: “Throughout its history, Wales has welcomed people of different faiths and cultures, and through its teaching on the subject of religion, values and ethics, the Church in Wales supports an approach that promotes understanding and respect for all religions, beliefs and non-religious worldviews, thereby reflecting the diversity that exists in our forward-looking Welsh society .
“Our approach celebrates creative and compassionate education that embraces and empowers, ensuring that children and young people are supported to engage in issues of ‘purpose, faith and belief’ and to fulfill their role as members valued in society ready to play their full part in life and work as ethical and informed citizens of Wales and the world.
The Church of Wales support guidance, which also includes guidance on key Christian concepts, has been recognized by the Welsh Government, with whom Church of Wales education professionals have had regular conversations as the policy developed.
St David’s C in W Primary School, Cardiff, recently received the School of Sanctuary award for its continued commitment to welcoming refugees and asylum seekers. The school’s RE manager, Bethan Bowen, recounted how an Advent project, billed as a story of refuge, inspired pupils to “help those who were fleeing their homes”.
She brought a choir of 60 pupils from the school to sing to the Governing Body an early version of the Lord’s Prayer, written in Anglo-Saxon by Welsh writer and composer Tim Riley. They had learned, in the process, how the language changed over time, Ms Bowen said. The children received a standing ovation – “I’ve never seen one before,” Bishop Stallard said.