Religious Education is the only subject in England that does not have a national curriculum. Each of the 152 Local Education Authorities (LEA) in England tasks its own SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) to provide an RE syllabus for its community schools and a small minority of its faith schools. Most faith schools, and now academies and free schools, can choose to use their own RE syllabus which, of course, can mean in reality only really teaching one religion. There is now strong national guidance which indicates that pupils should learn about non-religious world views as well as religious. However this guidance is non-statutory.
The 1996 Education Act states that each SACRE should be made up of 4 groups: A=religions other than Church of England, B=Church of England, C=Teachers and D=elected local councillors. In practice teachers and councillors interested in SACRE membership tend to be religious, thus non-religious people may have no representation (25% of the population is on-religious according to the 2011 census, 49% according to the 2013 British Social Attitude Surveys).
The BHA campaigns for all pupils to study a reformed national curriculum subject of “Belief and Values Education, or Philosophy”. Whilst this is the long term aim, in the short term the BHA has been campaigning for Humanists to be included as full voting members of SACREs. In February 2010 the Government issued new guidance on RE which removed the explicit 1994 bar to Humanist membership and replaced it with a case study of a SACRE co-opting a Humanist representative “in the interests of inclusion”.
The Surrey SACRE have allowed Farnham Humanists to provide a Humanist volunteer representative since 2006 as a temporary co-opted member with no voting rights, unlike the religious members who have full status.
Surrey SACRE completed its latest RE syllabus in 2012.
Surrey Agreed Syllabus 2012 (Primary)with cover_18June12
Surrey Agreed Syllabus 2012 (Secondary)_14 June 2012
Farnham Humanist’s module titled “How do non-religious people answer the Big Questions” was accepted as one of the options for 11 to 14 year olds.
FINAL Humanism Module
The previous RE syllabus had only one mention of a non-religious view and only one reference to Humanism whereas the new syllabus mentions non-religious views 49 times and Humanism 6 times as well as the new Humanism module option.