Every maintained school in England must provide a basic curriculum which includes provision for RE for all registered pupils at the school (including those in the sixth form), except for those withdrawn by their parents (or withdrawing themselves if they are aged 18 or over) in accordance with Schedule 19 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.
The key document in determining the teaching of RE is the locally agreed syllabus. Academies as well as Voluntary Aided schools designated as having a religious character may choose to follow the locally agreed syllabus, but are free to make their own decisions about which syllabus to follow. Academies without a religious character will follow the locally agreed syllabus.
Schools are not obliged to provide RE to pupils who are under compulsory school age (Section 80(2)(a) of the Education Act 2002), although there are many instances of good practice where RE is taught to these pupils.
Separate legislative provision for RE is made for maintained special schools. Regulations covering maintained special schools require them to ensure that as far as practicable, a pupil receives RE according to the locally agreed syllabus.
Whereas RE in accordance with the locally agreed syllabus in maintained schools is inspected by Ofsted in the course of the periodic inspection of a school (under Section 5 of the Education Act 2005), it is for the governing body of foundation and voluntary schools with a religious character to ensure that they are inspected at regular intervals (Section 48 of the Education Act 2005). The person who conducts the inspection is chosen by the governing body, or by the foundation governors in the case of a voluntary-controlled school, in consultation with a person prescribed in relation to the relevant designated religion or denomination. The person carrying out the inspection must prepare a report on the quality of denominational education.
All academies are inspected on the quality of their RE by Ofsted as part of the normal inspection regime. All denominational faith academies are required to be inspected by their religious body on the quality of their RE.
Governing bodies and headteachers must:
Community, foundation and voluntary schools without a religious character
In community schools, foundation and voluntary schools without a religious character and community and foundation special schools noone can be disqualified from employment on the grounds of their religious opinions or practices. No teacher can be discriminated against in terms of pay or promotion on the grounds of their religious opinions or practices or on the basis of whether or not they teach RE.
Foundation or Voluntary Controlled schools designated as having a religious character may have teachers who have been selected for their suitability to teach RE (‘reserved teachers’), but no more than one-fifth can be selected on that basis. Noone who is not a ‘reserved teacher’ can be disqualified from employment on the grounds of their religious opinions or practices. No teacher who is not a reserved teacher can be discriminated against in terms of pay or promotion on the grounds of their religious opinions or practices or on the basis of whether or not they teach RE. In dealing with reserved teachers, preference may be given when appointing or promoting teachers, or deciding about their remuneration, to teachers whose religious opinions or practices are in accordance with the tenets of that religious character or who are willing to teach RE at the school in accordance with those tenets.
In appointing a headteacher for such a school (where the head is not also to be a reserved teacher), the person’s ability and suitability to preserve and develop the religious character of the school may be taken into account.
In Voluntary Aided schools designated as having a religious character preference may be given when appointing or promoting teachers, or deciding about their remuneration, to teachers whose religious opinions or practices are in accordance with the tenets of that religious character or who are willing to teach RE at the school in accordance with those tenets.Certain teachers cannot be required to teach RE. The category extends to teachers in community and foundation and voluntary schools without a religious character, and teachers in foundation and voluntary-controlled schools with a religious character who are not 'reserved teachers'.
Parents and carers can obtain information on their child’s RE from the LA or school. They should receive information from the school on how their child is progressing in the subject.
The parent of a pupil at a community, foundation or voluntary school has the right to request that the pupil be withdrawn from all or part of the RE provided.
They do not have to provide a reason and the school must comply with their written request. However, schools should provide parents with information about their RE curriculum in order to assist informed decisions.
All pupils are entitled to receive RE as part of a broad and balanced curriculum at school which promotes their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
Every school governing body and LA is required by law to have an accessible and easily understood route through which parents and others can make a complaint about school or other educational matters, including RE. A copy of the local complaints procedure should be available in each school and the school prospectus must make reference to it. Schools should seek advice from their SACREs in addressing complaints about RE.