by Murray White
A SHORTAGE of adequatelytrained religious education teachers accounts for the neglect of the subject, the Chairman of the National Curriculum Council (NCC) admitted last week.
Churches, concerned about the lack of emphasis given to religion since the NCC's formation in 1988, reacted warmly to the speech by Mr David Pwall. They agreed that there was a lack of RE specialists, especially in nondenominational schools.
In a key address to religious
educationalists in London, Mr Pascall stressed the need for a framework for teaching moral and spiritual values. Schools should Support parents, he said, by having a clear vision of moral
They had to "establish a proper balance between academic learning, promoting human values and encouraging good behaviour," Mr Pascal] told members of the Religious Education Council (REC). But he made a suggestion that overenthusiastic RE teachers should not make their subject about the narrow "promotion of, or conversion to, a faith".
Gwen Palmer, chairman of the REC, welcomed Mr Pascall taking a lead in the RE debate. She believed the shortage of RE teachers has its roots in a lack of opportunities for pupils to study RE up to examination level.
The REC, an ecumenical body with representatives of 40 separate organisations from all of England's main Churches, meets twice a year. Catholic representatives come from the Bishops' Conference, the Catholic Education Service, and the Catholic Teachers' Federation.
Mrs Palmer. a Baptist, said that the "substantial neglect" of RE in recent years was compounded by the fact that the national curriculum until recently made no reference to spiritual education.
It was not a solution to open more denominational schools, she said. "There is a great deal to be said for a commitment by RE teachers to move to non-church schools, to communicate something of what faith can mean to believers."
In 12 months as NCC Chairman, Mr Pascall said he had met many church leaders to put them at their ease over NCC's commitment to safeguarding the place of religion. He said Cardinal Home's advice on the pastoral role of teachers was "particularly helpful to me in developing my own thinking."
Mr Pascall said spiritual values were "fundamental" to learning.