BY A STAFF REPORTER
THE Government's pledge to preserve compulsory religious education in state schools was brought into doubt by Mr. Edward Short, Minister of Education. last week.
He told sixth-formers at Holloway School, North London, that a provision allowing pupils to withdraw from religious education after the age of 16 without the permission of their parents would be embodied in the proposed new
Education Act. • On. January 10 this year Mr. Short said that compulsory religious education was "the point at which all who care about the preservation of the Christian character of our community must man the barricades. "If we do not do so, in my view, Britain will cease to be a Christian country within two generations. For my part, 1 and the Government intend to preserve the compulsory provision of religious education in County Schools and the daily act of worship in the new Education Act . . ."
Students at Holloway school were joined by girls from ParParliament Hill and Camden schools. Mr. Short made his statement after Lucy Hervey. 17, had asked him why religious education should be compulsory, when neither mathematics nor physics was formally required by law. Mr. Short pointed Out that religious education was not, in fact, compulsory on either teachers or pupils it their parents opted out. He thought that religious education should not be evangelical but perfectly open, that pupils could make their own minds. 11P
The British Humanist Association described Mr. Short's statement as "a hard knock" for the "diehard" supporters of compulsory religious education, and asked: "Are the barricades now being dismantled?" Its statement continued: "In the face of widespread expressions of concern. Mr. Short has now made his first minor concession. Future sixth-form meetings with the Minister appear likely to bring further concessions,"