Heads call for parents to lose legal right to withdraw children from RE lessons

Headteachers have demanded that parents lose the legal right to withdraw their children from religious education.

School leaders will call on the government to revoke the law allowing parents to opt out of classes after a motion was overwhelmingly carried at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference in Birmingham this morning.

Delegates argued that giving parents a choice to take their children out of religious education (RE) undermines the teaching of ‘British values’ – a core part of the government’s strategy to tackle radicalisation.

Speaking to the motion, which calls for school leaders to be given greater power to force children to attend RE lessons, headteacher, Hilary Alcock stressed it was the “vital element of education in the 21st century”.

The head of Buntingsdale Primary School and Nursery, Tern Hill, added that “parents may not always know what is best” for their children.

The motion, which was passed by 81 per cent of delegates, said: “Conference calls upon National Executive to negotiate with the Department for Education to revoke the existing legal framework which entitles parents to be able to withdraw their children from Religious Education”.

Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson head of Anderton Park School in Birmingham said: “RE for all because not being taught equals not knowing, equals ignorance, equals intolerance, equals misunderstanding, equals prejudice.

“It is laughable to think of withdrawing from maths, english and science then why is it ok to withdraw from RE? Allowing withdrawal is not inclusive, it’s divisive. Groomers and radicalisers exploit the us and them syndrome, they exploit ignorance, narrower views of life.”

Since September last year, schools have had to demonstrate that pupils are “well prepared to respect others and contribute to wider society and life in Britain.”

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