Catholic schools to shun Islam in new GCSE courses

Catholic schools will no longer teach Islam as part of GCSE religious studies, but will be directed to teach Christianity and Judaism.

Changes to the new religious studies GCSE specification mean schools must teach two religions as part of the course, with each weighted equally in the exam.

The Bishops Conference has decreed that all Catholic secondary schools teach Judaism alongside Christianity at GCSE, regardless of whether teachers are trained to teach other religions, such as Islam.

The 2011 census shows that Judaism is the fifth most popular religion in England, with 0.5 per cent of the population saying that it is their faith. This compares with 5 per cent identifying themselves as Islamic.

A teacher at a Catholic secondary school, who wished to remain anonymous, told Schools Week the decision was made for purely “academic” reasons. “There is a real need for understanding of Islam, but . . . the argument coming from the dioceses is that we shouldn’t sway with the times.”

According to information on the Catholic Education Service (CES) website, the body overseeing all Catholic schools, 2,156 Catholic primary and secondary schools in England educate more than 800,000 pupils.

Approximately 30 per cent of children educated at the school are of no faith or other faiths.

The teacher continued: “The bishops say Judaism is an academic study of religion rather than a social study, however, we would argue that Islam is both.”

The CES told Schools Week the Department for Education (DfE) would provide funding for teachers at Catholic schools to teach Judaism.

CES director Paul Barber said exam syllabuses combining Judaism ensured schools complied with curriculum regulations laid out by the church.

“RE in Catholic schools goes far beyond comparing and contrasting different faiths. It is at the core of everything we do.

“Teaching Judaism . . . will ensure that schools continue to comply with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Religious Education Curriculum Directory (RECD).

“This is so our pupils can gain a thorough understanding of the richness and breadth of 2,000 years of Catholic theology and culture. And just because our pupils are not being examined on faiths other than Christianity and Judaism, it doesn’t mean they’re not learning about them.”

But the teacher said there had been no consultation over the change, which would require all lesson materials to be rewritten.

The DfE said it was looking at “how” teachers could be supported in teaching two religions, but had not yet “committed” to what form this would take.


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  1. Sadeya Callaghan

    This plays into the hands of the extremists.By not teaching the true peaceful teachings of Islam then you are doing nothing to destroy the poisonous teachings of the extremists. Which is causing havoc across the world.Very sad to read this about Catholic schools which I have a great respect for. Shameful situation.

  2. If we want our children to be even more ignorant about an already demonized faith them this is the way to do it. Of course, the far-right and the neo-con’s will be sending their heartfelt congrats to the Bishops.

  3. I use to have some respect for Catholic school as a Muslim teacher but this shows that they are not inclusive as they come across. I will ensure that i get my community and other non catholic communities aware of this and advise them not to send their children to Catholic schools and they will be better of sending them to state school as the children will get the chance to explore other religions including their own.

  4. Jean Meyer

    Another reflection of how much hostility there is towards Islam in the UK. Why has the restriction of two religions been placed in any case? We live in a multicultural society and Christians need to accept that and integrate more into modern Britain

  5. therealtalk

    People trying to comment on the exclusion of Islam also should appreciate that Sikhism and Hinduism have also been ditched in favour of the subject. However, this is just a module change on a GCSE subject, the Catholic schools must legally inform their students of all of the five major UK religions in the syllabus and of atheism in PSHE. Which is fair imho.

    Any suggestions that Islamic schools do not teach RE are false in most cases – the schools who do not are both not members of the Association of Muslim Schools or Ofsted-registered for more than one inspection. These are the kind of schools that appear on Panorama and have to be exposed for their barbaric and non-Islamic treatment of students in general (with corporal punishment).

    Seeing Daily Mail people pushing for the banning of religion in the public sphere (essentially Stalinist/Nazi secularism) was pretty disgusting – probably too scared to voice these opinions in public where the law can punish ’em.

  6. Greg Waters

    Our school is a joint Anglican/ Catholic Primary school. One of our teachers is a Muslim. We should be modelling ways to understanding and living in peace. A quarter of our RE time is on other world faiths apart from Christianity. I agree Judaism richly supports Christianity, but Judaism can be covered within Christianity as all the roots of Christianity lie in Judaism. We urgently need understanding between people this move seems seems detrimental to doing this in a balanced and moderate way.