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Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from GCSE

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Alan H
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Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from GCSE

#1 Postby Alan H » November 9th, 2015, 10:45 am

Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from GCSE curriculum
November 9th, 2015

Three humanists and their children are going to court tomorrow, supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA), to challenge the Government’s decision to exclude non-religious worldviews from the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies (RS). The content, on which exam boards must base their specifications, was published earlier this year and failed to allow for the in-depth study of a non-religious worldview such as Humanism, despite widespread support for such an option being included. The parents, all of whom have children that are set to take their GCSEs in the next few years, are judicially reviewing the Government’s decision.

The original decision of the Government in November 2014 to exclude Humanism was almost universally condemned, including by 113 leading philosophers, RE academics, teachers, consultants and advisors, and also by 28 religious leaders, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Both the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) and the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE), which reaffirmed their support for non-religious worldviews being taught in detail alongside religions, also opposed the Government decision to exclude Humanism, as did 85% of the public in response to the Department for Education’s subsequent consultation.

One of the three parents acting as a claimant in the case, Kate Bielby, said ‘I completely recognise the importance of children learning about the different religions, especially in our increasingly diverse society. What I object to is the lack of parity between religious beliefs and non-religious worldviews in the school curriculum, which in the eyes of children may well lead to the belief that religion, in whatever form, has a monopoly on truth and on morality. This is not accurate, it reflects neither the views of the population nor the traditions of the country, and we shouldn’t be encouraging our children to believe it.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said ‘The law is clear that when teaching about religions and beliefs, schools should follow a broad and balanced syllabus which includes both religious and non-religious worldviews like Humanism on an equal footing. The Religious Studies GCSE is therefore incompatible with the rights of non-religious parents and the entitlement of young people to an education that does not indoctrinate them, even by omission. It amounts to a breach of the Government’s obligations and that is what we are seeking the Court to affirm, in line with overwhelming public and professional opinion.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman onjay@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3078, or BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson onrichy@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3072.

Further details

What is being challenged by the parents?

The three parents and their children are challenging the priority given in the GCSE Religious Studies subject content to religious views (in particular to each of Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism) over all non-religious worldviews, which they believe to be discriminatory and not in keeping with the Government’s obligations with regard to freedom of religion and belief.

On what grounds is the challenge being made?

Subject to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and corresponding case law, the State is obliged to treat different religions and beliefs on an equal footing and in a non-partisan way, an obligation which extends to teaching in the State’s schools, and requires that religions are not elevated above non-religious worldviews in the curriculum. Despite this, that is precisely what the Government proceeded to do. Explaining the decision, the Secretary of State said ‘as these are qualifications in Religious Studies, it is right that the content primarily focuses on developing students’ understanding of different religious beliefs’. In other words, priority was given to religious beliefs simply because they are religious, which the claimants believe to be unlawful.

When will the judge’s decision be made?

Whilst the exact date of the decision cannot be known, the case is scheduled for a one-day hearing in the High Court on 10 November, and a ruling will be made within a few months.

What will happen if the legal challenge is successful?

If the challenge is successful it is unlikely that the court will require the Government to amend or withdraw the current GCSE subject content, nor the exam boards to modify their specifications. Rather, the court is likely to affirm that, due to the unlawful relegation of non-religious worldviews, the current RS GCSE cannot form the entirety of the Religious Education syllabus provided to children at Key Stage 4 in state schools with no religious character, Voluntary Controlled schools, and Foundation schools.

The reason that this is the most likely outcome is that the relegation of non-religious worldviews in the GCSE would not necessarily be an issue (legally speaking) if the GCSE curriculum was simply a part of the overall RE syllabus delivered in schools to the relevant age group. However, for a variety of reasons, the RS GSCE almost invariably forms the entirety of schools’ RE syllabuses at Key Stage 4, and relegating non-religious worldviews in the GCSE therefore amounts to relegating them in RE provision as a whole. Given this, the court may demand that the Government issues a statement to both schools and the committees responsible for setting RE locally (SACREs/ASCs) clarifying how their obligations can be met in light of the ruling.

The three parents and their children are being represented by Matrix Chambers and Maxwell Gillot.

Read the new GCSE RS subject content: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gcse-religious-studies

Read the DfE’s consultation on the subject content: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/gcse-and-a-level-reform-religious-studies

Read the BHA’s response: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Reformed-RS-GCSE-and-A-level-subject-content-consultation-response-from-the-BHA-with-annexes-publication.pdf

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘Government rejects consensus of subject experts, public, and religious leaders, marginalises Humanism in GCSE and A Levels’: https://humanism.org.uk/2015/02/12/government-rejects-consensus-subject-experts-public-religious-leaders-marginalises-humanism-gcse-levels/

Read the BHA’s briefing on why Humanism is now normally included in Religious Education syllabuses:http://humanismforschools.org.uk/guidance/why-humanism-is-included-in-religious-education-re/

Read more about the BHA’s work on RE: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/religious-education/

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#2 Postby Alan H » November 11th, 2015, 11:46 am

Humanist parents and their children await judgment on RS GCSE after hearing in High Court
Following a hearing in the High Court yesterday, three humanist parents and their children are awaiting the outcome of their legal challenge to the Government’s decision to exclude non-religious worldviews from the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies. Supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA), the three families believe that the content fails to respect their non-religious beliefs or treat them on an equal footing with religions. The judge presiding over the case, Mr Justice Warby, is expected to hand down a judgement in the next few weeks.

Acting on behalf of the claimants, David Wolfe QC stated at the hearing that the Government had a ‘duty of neutrality and impartiality’ when dealing with different religions and beliefs, and that in elevating religious beliefs above non-religious worldviews, the GCSE was therefore not compliant with those obligations set out under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Whilst it is not known at this stage what remedial action the Government would have to take should the claim be successful, Mr Justice Warby stated that this may be the subject of further submissions from both the claimants and the Secretary of State.

Speaking from the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson, said ‘We are just as clear after the hearing as we were before it: the relegation of non-religious worldviews in the RS GCSE is out of step with popular and professional opinion, unreflective of the make-up and character of this country, and an affront to the rights of non-religious parents and their children. The Government has very obviously failed to uphold its equalities and human rights obligations in this case, and we very much hope that this will be confirmed by Mr Justice Warby when he comes to hand down his judgement.’
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#3 Postby Alan H » November 25th, 2015, 11:32 am

Breaking news: Education Secretary made 'error of law' over religious studies GCSE
The High Court has ruled that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan made "an error of law" when she left "non-religious world views" out of the new religious studies GCSE.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#4 Postby Compassionist » November 25th, 2015, 12:28 pm

Alan H wrote:Breaking news: Education Secretary made 'error of law' over religious studies GCSE
The High Court has ruled that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan made "an error of law" when she left "non-religious world views" out of the new religious studies GCSE.

That's great news. Are they going to rectify the situation?

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#5 Postby Alan H » November 25th, 2015, 12:45 pm

Judge rules Government broke the law in excluding Humanism from school curriculum
November 25th, 2015

Government rejected the results of its consultation, and went against the opinion of RE subject experts and religious leaders, by omitting Humanism from the GCSE RS subject curriculum

In a landmark judgment handed down in the High Court today, a judge has ruled in favour of the three humanist parents and their children who challenged the Government’s relegation of non-religious worldviews in the latest subject content for GCSE Religious Studies. In his decision, Mr Justice Warby stated that the Government had made an ‘error of law’ in leaving non-religious worldviews such as humanism out of the GCSE, amounting to ‘a breach of the duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner.’ The British Humanist Association (BHA), which was responsible for bringing the case and has supported the three families throughout, has welcomed the landmark decision.

While the Government will not be immediately compelled to change the GSCE, religious education syllabuses around the country will now have to include non-religious worldviews such as humanism on an equal footing, and pupils taking a GCSE will also have to learn about non-religious worldviews alongside the course.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Warby said, ‘In carrying out its educational functions the state owes parents a positive duty to respect their religious and philosophical convictions… the state has a duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner… the state must accord equal respect to different religious convictions, and to non-religious beliefs; it is not entitled to discriminate between religions and beliefs on a qualitative basis; its duties must be performed from a standpoint of neutrality and impartiality as regards the quality and validity of parents’ convictions.’

He found that GCSE specifications drawn up along the lines recommended ‘would give priority to the study of religions (including some with a relatively very small following and no significant role in the tradition of the country) over all non-religious world views (which have a significant following and role in the tradition of the country)’ and would therefore risk being unlawful.

Finally, he found that, if schools relied on the GCSE to deliver their legal obligation, ‘the state would need to afford some additional educational provision [which included non-religious worldviews such as humanism] or fail in its duties.’

The Department for Education will now have to take action in response to the judgement against it. Further meetings will now take place between the parties to decide what steps must now be taken to ensure non-religious worldviews such as Humanism are included.

Kate Bielby, one of the parents acting as a claimant in the case, commented, ‘My daughter and I are delighted by today’s decision and the clear statement that it makes in support of equality of religion and belief. It is long past time that the beliefs of the non-religious were treated on an equal footing with religions in the school curriculum. I am confident that whatever changes are introduced on the back of this judgement, Religious Studies will be a fairer, more inclusive subject, benefitting all children whatever their religious or non-religious background.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said, ‘We have made the case for many decades that the school curriculum on religions should include major non-religious worldviews such as humanism. It is great news that the Court has now said the law is with us. This is a stunning victory for the three humanist families who stood up to the Government on this issue. It is also a victory for the vast majority of people who believe in the importance of a religious education curriculum that is inclusive, balanced, and pluralistic, and which contributes to mutual understanding between people of all religions and none.

‘We look forward to working with the Government to ensure that the changes required by the judgement are implemented and hope they will use this as an opportunity to improve the GCSE for the benefit of all children. Continuing to exclude the views of a huge number of Britons, in the face of majority public opinion and all expert advice, would only be to the detriment of education in this country and a shameful path to follow.’

Read the full judgement here: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uplo ... 251115.pdf

Read the new GCSE RS subject content: https://www.gov.uk/government/publicati ... us-studies

Read the DfE’s consultation on the subject content: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultat ... us-studies

Read the BHA’s response: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uplo ... cation.pdf

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from GCSE curriculum’ https://humanism.org.uk/2015/11/09/pare ... urriculum/

Read the BHA’s briefing on why Humanism is now normally included in Religious Education syllabuses: http://humanismforschools.org.uk/guidan ... cation-re/

Read more about the BHA’s work on RE: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schoo ... education/
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#6 Postby Alan H » November 25th, 2015, 12:45 pm

Compassionist wrote:
Alan H wrote:Breaking news: Education Secretary made 'error of law' over religious studies GCSE
The High Court has ruled that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan made "an error of law" when she left "non-religious world views" out of the new religious studies GCSE.

That's great news. Are they going to rectify the situation?

...or find a way round it by changing the law? That's the Tories' MO.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#7 Postby Alan H » November 25th, 2015, 2:25 pm

'Error of law' in new religious studies GCSE
The education secretary made "an error of law" in leaving "non-religious world views" out of the new religious studies GCSE, the High Court has ruled.

Three families argued Nicky Morgan had taken a "skewed" approach to RS when she had announced changes in February.

And Mr Justice Warby ruled there had been "a breach of the duty" to ensure the curriculum reflected the pluralistic nature of the UK.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#8 Postby jaywhat » November 25th, 2015, 4:22 pm

sounds good

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#9 Postby Alan H » November 26th, 2015, 10:50 am

Andrew Copson on Radio 4's Today program this morning, from 50 minutes in.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#10 Postby Dave B » November 26th, 2015, 12:42 pm

Alan H wrote:Andrew Copson on Radio 4's Today program this morning, from 50 minutes in.

We seem to be suffering one of those cases where, becsuse an unenkightened age hung a label on something the something is now defined according to the label.

Perhaps a GCSE in "Philosophies of Belief" might open things up. But not with god botherers in the drving sest I fear.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#11 Postby Tetenterre » November 26th, 2015, 1:37 pm

Heard that. I thought Andrew was very good indeed.
Steve

Quantum Theory: The branch of science with which people who know absolutely sod all about quantum theory can explain anything.

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#12 Postby Alan H » November 26th, 2015, 2:09 pm

Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#13 Postby Alan H » November 26th, 2015, 2:42 pm

Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#14 Postby Nick » November 27th, 2015, 8:50 am

Tetenterre wrote:Heard that. I thought Andrew was very good indeed.
Indeed. He was excellent!

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#15 Postby Alan H » December 1st, 2015, 11:24 am

Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Dave B
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#16 Postby Dave B » December 1st, 2015, 11:32 am

Wearing the blinkers of ideology I'll bet Morgana cannot actually see such letters.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#17 Postby Alan H » December 6th, 2015, 2:36 pm

Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#18 Postby Tetenterre » December 7th, 2015, 11:00 am

This was on the Today programme this morning. The guest (Elizabeth Butler-Sloss?) made what I thought was a very good point: when Nick Robinson pressed her on the notion that Christianity was being removed from the public arena, she responded robustly that this was blatant nonsense, that nothing was being removed, but that other things were being added.

Whilst I disagree with any religion or religious viewpoint being granted privilege, I felt that was a point well made.
Steve

Quantum Theory: The branch of science with which people who know absolutely sod all about quantum theory can explain anything.

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Alan H
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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#19 Postby Alan H » December 7th, 2015, 11:17 am

Tetenterre wrote:
This was on the Today programme this morning. The guest (Elizabeth Butler-Sloss?) made what I thought was a very good point: when Nick Robinson pressed her on the notion that Christianity was being removed from the public arena, she responded robustly that this was blatant nonsense, that nothing was being removed, but that other things were being added.

Whilst I disagree with any religion or religious viewpoint being granted privilege, I felt that was a point well made.
I think this exposes one of their 'debating points': the equivocation of the phrase 'public arena'. It is meant both to mean public life (politics, law, etc) and simply what people do in public (go to church, express their views in public). Secularists would always be referring to the former when talking about getting rid of religion, but never the latter as that would be an infringement of personal rights and freedoms, but it suits the religious to conflate the two.
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: Parents sue Government over exclusion of Humanism from G

#20 Postby Tetenterre » December 8th, 2015, 7:25 am

Alan H wrote:I think this exposes one of their 'debating points': the equivocation of the phrase 'public arena'. It is meant both to mean public life (politics, law, etc) and simply what people do in public (go to church, express their views in public). Secularists would always be referring to the former when talking about getting rid of religion, but never the latter as that would be an infringement of personal rights and freedoms, but it suits the religious to conflate the two.
Good distinction, well made.
Steve

Quantum Theory: The branch of science with which people who know absolutely sod all about quantum theory can explain anything.


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