What is a SACRE?
It’s a legal requirement for every school to include Religious Education (RE) in its basic curriculum and each local authority must have a SACRE to oversee that provision and to revise the locally agreed syllabus.
Why are humanists involved in SACREs?
Clearly the ideal situation would be that state schooling was secular, and religious education took place via churches. However, that prospect is receding as more and more faith schools are being set up and the position of religion in education is, if anything, becoming more entrenched.
Humanists join SACREs in the hope of broadening the scope of RE in their area to include a recognition that many people live perfectly good lives without having a faith of any kind.
How much influence do humanists have?
Nationally, the BHA has been campaigning strongly and as a result the word `humanism’ now appears in the non-statutory guidelines for RE. Also the phrase ‘religions and beliefs’ is used more often than ‘religions’ alone, thus opening the way for exploration of non-religious approaches. However, the legal framework still stresses the teaching of ‘the principal religions represented in Great Britain’ – a limiting definition.
Locally, there are humanist representatives on SACREs with varying amounts of influence.
What about Shropshire?
I am a co-opted member of the joint Shropshire/ Telford and Wrekin SACRE, so can observe and contribute to discussion. However, because of the legal rules about the make-up of the SACRE, I have no right to be involved in the syllabus revision committee and have no vote. (This is another area of BHA campaigning.)
The RE advisors and other members of the SACRE are not hostile to humanism and are open to suggestions for inclusive syllabus material. I hope that in the near future, the BHA will come up with helpful material for this; in the meantime I shall try to find time to relate some of the educational resources that are available to the suggested teaching themes and recommend them to the local authorities.
If anyone would be interested in representing humanism on the local SACRE or helping to relate humanist resources to teaching, I’d be very glad of the support.