HC Deb 03 July 1979 vol 969 cc1085-6
Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will issue new advice to local education authorities on carrying out their responsibilities regarding religious instruction and collective acts of worship under the Education Act 1944.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

My right hon. and learned Friend will be consulting local education authorities, teachers and others about the position in religious education—as in other matters—in the light of the report on the authorities' curricular arrangements which will be published later this year. We continue to lay great emphasis on the need for religious education in schools.

Mr. Latham

Is my hon. Friend aware that the law in relation to this matter, which has wide and strong support from parents, is far from universally applied in practice? Will he endeavour urgently to achieve agreement between teachers and churches on new and up-to-date agreed syllabuses?

Mr. Macfarlane

I am anxious to achieve full agreement with the various parties. The agreed syllabuses are subject to local determination and, therefore, can vary in emphasis to reflect local circumstances. Replies to our circular 14/77 indicate that more than half of the local education authorities are considering or have considered arrangements for reviewing the syllabus. We hope to achieve that co-operation by the end of the year.

Mr. Kaufman

There is a large Muslim school population in this country for which no proper provision has yet been made. Will the Minister consider holding consultations to ensure that Muslim children have the opportunity of receiving proper religious instruction? Will he also consider extending the provisions for denominational schools to the Muslim faith?

Mr. Macfarlane

I understand the problem to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I agree that religious education should help to prepare children to take their place in a multi-racial society. I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, which will form part of the negotiations and discussions to take place later this year.

Mr. Sims

Is my hon. Friend aware that parents expect teachers to be qualified in the subjects that they teach? Is he aware that in a number of schools there are no teachers who are qualified to teach religious education? Will he take steps to remedy that position?

Mr. MacFarlane

I am aware of that problem, but I cannot give a guarantee that it will form an integral part of our discussions between now and the end of the year.

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