Presentation of a Council of Europe Project

Policy, Research and Practice for ‘Inclusive’ Religious Education – Swedish and Norwegian Translations of Signposts now available


  • Robert Jackson University of Warwick


When I became a teacher of religious education in England in the late 1960s, it was clear that the nature of the subject was changing. My own experience showed that many older students were interested in the study of religions, but were highly resistant to anyone telling them what they should or should not believe. This ‘on the ground’ experience was confirmed by school-based research. For example, classroom-based research conducted by Harold Loukes showed that traditional Biblical education was felt by many older secondary school students to be irrelevant to their personal questions and concerns (Loukes 1961). A survey of upper secondary school students by Edwin Cox showed their perception of religious education as lacking breadth and opportunities for critical analysis and discussion (Cox 1967). Pluralization through migration, especially since the 1960s, was also an important factor in influencing both students and teachers to shift the focus of religious education in fully state-funded schools from a form of single faith religious teaching to a ‘non-confessional’, inclusive, multi-faith approach, including learning about the religions of relatively newly-established minorities such as Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in addition to Christianity and Judaism. Formal recognition of a change to the subject came through local policy development, rather than through a change in the law. Locally produced ‘agreed syllabuses’ began to acknowledge the changes that were taking place in schools in a ‘bottom-up’ fashion. National law was eventually broadened in relation to religious education through the 1988 Education Reform Act. In short, changes in practice at school level in response to the processes of secularisation and pluralisation – changes monitored by empirical research – gradually influenced local policy and finally influenced national law.






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