Archbishop Speaks out About RE in Schools

April 25, 2012
Archbishop Speaks out About RE in Schools

The Archbishop of York today addressed 50 Headteachers from schools and academies across the North of England, and spoke of the importance of Religious Education in schools. Speaking at Bishopthorpe Palace, the Archbishop also spoke of the work his Youth Trust is doing educating and empowering young leaders to make a difference in their local communities. The Archbishop of York Youth Trust Young Leaders Award was launched in York earlier this year and encourages schools to teach the importance of young people taking practical action to improve the areas in which they live.   The Archbishop said:  

“As well as those who help us and drive change forward, it strikes me that from time to time the world of education throws up some colourful characters and new ideas, some of them no doubt benefit the education system, others may not. Recently Education Secretary Michael Gove has been in the news with his talk of moving RE further to the side-lines through proposed changes to the English Baccalaureate. As I said in The House of Lords last year, Religious Knowledge forms and creates a culture. Whatever we might think of Michael Gove, in this country, religion and practice will never be on the side-lines. It is a surely a mistake, to turn education into a box ticking exercise focused on exam success and the supply of skilled workers to industry and commerce. Education is good for its own sake. My friends we play a vital part in educating our children and young people, indeed last week Michael Gove said in the House of Commons that he cherished the role that the Church of England plays in educating more than a million children throughout the country. There is a very clear direction here that education is to be on-going, talked about by the family, the education of the child and the adult happens over mealtimes, on walks, as the general topic of the day. Trying to side-line Jesus Christ is like trying to disguise the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral with a Bobble Hat. It is not possible.  Psalm 19 says, 'The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge'.  God is everywhere, all around us all the time. As Gerard Manley Hopkins aptly said: ‘THE WORD is charged with the grandeur of God.’ Even when we turn on our computers, their inbuilt date registers the days since Christ's death and resurrection. In recent years across the spectrum of secondary education in this country we have become familiar with Academies and changes in the way in which schools are to be funded.  Whatever the debates, locally and nationally about these changes, much of the work that Academies achieve is fantastic. I spent some time at a Church of England Academy not so long ago and was profoundly affected by all that had happened there. In particular some year seven pupils who simply told me, ‘for the first time we know that someone cares and we are loved’. I was delighted to hear such wonderful news and all I could do was sing, ‘Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice’. Following on from our vision that young people can be the change they want to see in their communities, The Archbishop of York Young Leaders Award is now running in eleven schools across the North of England. The service aspect of the Young Leaders Award has a very powerful biblical mandate behind it. Serve others, do unto others as you would have done unto you. Combining this with the Academic side of The Award – where students learn about real and living faith heroes - means that we have a very unique scheme here. I am convinced that this Award can make a huge difference to your schools, your community and your students. You only need to listen to what the young people and their teachers and head teachers have said, to know that this is worth pursuing.”  

Director of the Archbishop of York Youth Trust, said:

“I am delighted that the Archbishop is taking a lead in encouraging young people to be the change they want to see in their local areas. Religious education has an important part to play in encouraging and empowering young people, that is why we have launched the Young Leaders Award to help young people in recognising they can make a difference in their communities. We work with young people in some of the most deprived areas in England, and to see young people making a positive contribution in the face of such difficulties is simply inspirational.”

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