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L’enseignement religieux dans les écoles subventionnées par l’Etat

In England schools are either ‘maintained’ (i.e. state) schools or independent (confusingly, they are often called ‘public schools’). The churches were the main provider of education for many centuries, and many schools continue to have a church affiliation : within the category of maintained schools they are ‘voluntary controlled’ or ‘voluntary aided’ schools. In the latter group, the church accepts responsibility for 15 per cent of the cost of any building works and has in return a stronger position on the school’s board of managers.

In every maintained school the ‘basic curriculum’ includes religious education for all pupils and a National Curriculum comprising a range of other subjects ; religious education thus enjoys a special status. England has since 1870 had non-denominational religious education in its State schools. The construction of local ‘agreed syllabuses’ is governed by a complex procedure first introduced in 1944. A conference is convened made up of four committees, each of which must consent to the syllabus. The committees represent :

 the Church of England ;
 such Christian and other religious denominations as reflect the principal religious traditions of the area ;
 teachers’ associations ;
 the local educational authority.

This procedure gives the Church of England representatives the right of veto, but they cannot insist on any element in the syllabus unacceptable to the other groups, and cannot obtain anything approaching ‘confessional’ religious teaching. Every agreed syllabus must reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain.

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 contains provisions as to religious worship in maintained schools. All pupils must take part in an act of collective worship on each school day. It must be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”, but not distinctive of any particular denomination. Not every act of worship need be Christian, as the social circum stances of some areas mean that a majority of pupils may be from other faiths ; but a majority of acts of worship in any term must be.

For more information, see the article "Religion in public education - United Kingdom" of David McCLean in Gerhard Robbers (Hrsg.), Religion in Public Education – La religion dans l’éducation publique, European Consortium for Church and State Research, Trier, 2011, 503-520.

D 11 septembre 2012    ADavid McClean

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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