First GCSE, now British values: Government again deletes atheism and humanism from study

Dec 3, 2014

By British Humanist Association

The Independent School Standards require schools to ‘actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.’ In 2013, the Department for Education (DfE) published advice stating that ’There are many different actions that schools can take to meet this part of the standard, such as: …Use teaching resources from a wide variety of sources to help pupils understand a range of faiths, and beliefs such as atheism and humanism.’ However, in updated advice  on meeting this same standard, the DfE has removed ‘and beliefs such as atheism and humanism’ from the preceding sentence.

Earlier this month the DfE launched a consultation on new GCSE and A level religious studies subject content. This does not allow for the systematic study of non-religious worldviews such as Humanism, a fact that has led to widespread opposition to the content. In its briefing on why Humanism is typically studied in RE, and repeatedly in its correspondence with DfE ministers, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has pointed to the recommended study of Humanism in the 2013 guidance and the resultant inconsistency of excluding such study at GCSE and A level.

Other parts of the new guidance are also uninclusive. For example, one part says ‘Pupils must be encouraged to regard people of all faiths, races and cultures with respect and tolerance’ – but has no similar reference to respect and tolerance of those with no religious beliefs. Other parts refer to ‘faiths and beliefs’, and the term ‘belief’, in equalities legislation, is typically taken to mean non-religious beliefs. But one part refers to ‘an acceptance that other people having different faiths or beliefs to oneself (or having none) should be accepted and tolerated, and should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour’ – implying that apart from this one reference, ‘belief’ may not refer to non-religious beliefs. And only the now-amended sentence refers to actually learning about other faiths.


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10 comments on “First GCSE, now British values: Government again deletes atheism and humanism from study

  • I think it is pretty obvious that if you are going to advocate respect for people then you need to include non-belief in something, but hang on a minute why equate not respecting belief in a relgion with racism which is what they are doing. I can accept that you don’t discriminate against somebody because they or their ancestors come from somewhere else, because it doesn’t really tell you anything about them as a person and they can’t help it either. However, what someone choses to believe as a religious article of faith DOES tell you something about them. If their religion demands that the earth is flat, or the equally ridiculous notion that it is only 6000 years old, surely you are entitled to believe that they are ignorant and if they refuse to accept the evidence quite possibly stupid as well.



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  • Here’s a reply that might be nothing but semantics- but:
    I don’t “believe in” anything. I don’t have a “belief system”. I think of believing to be somewhere between taking an educated guess and faith.
    In other words, I don’t “believe in” the scientific method- I have confidence in it which is based on evidence and results. I always cringe at the phrase “belief system”.



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  • Those of us struggling within the British education system are not in the least bit surprised by this muddle headed nonsense. We’ve had nearly 5 years of it from this shameless coalition government, and now with an election looming things go from crazy to bat shit crazy as they lurch further to the right, and the religious right, to keep the UK Independence idiots at bay. It really is feeling like the worst excesses of Thatcher’s nightmare all over again. We’ll just have to make sure it works out at ground level, like we usually do. I’ve pointed out here before that, certainly from our primary school perspective, respecting views does not mean accepting them uncritically. Rather it means according them the same respect, and accompanying challenge, that any other ideas have. Failing that it’s only just over 3 years till I can draw a reduced pension and get out of this position.



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  • headswapboy Dec 4, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Failing that it’s only just over 3 years till I can draw a reduced pension and get out of this position.

    As someone who took that option quite a few years ago, I can recommend it.

    You can be confident, in the face of more budget cuts, that you will be replaced by some cheaper inexperienced member of staff, who the politicians can blame the failures on.



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  • I concur with Alan4D. I took the package too. Now I the unrestrained pleasure of playing Lego with a 4 year and hanging out with rational minds from all over the world. I like this from George Carlin.

    Life Is Not Measured By the Number of Breaths We Take, But By the Moments That Take Our Breath Away



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  • David R Allen Dec 4, 2014 at 6:24 am

    I concur with Alan4D. I took the package too. Now I the unrestrained pleasure of playing Lego with a 4 year and hanging out with rational minds from all over the world.

    Funny you should mention that!
    A while back I dug out some crates of Duplo for my granddaughter and her cousin. (The Lego is still in storage.)
    However, next week I am working some sessions for the university again.



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  • First GCSE, now British values: Government again deletes atheism and humanism from study

    Hopefully next May, the electorate will delete Cameron from the office of Prime Minister, – given that Nick Clegg (Liberal Deputy prime minister) and Ed Miliband (Labour Leader) are atheists!

    David Cameron is a Christian yet his deputy, Nick Clegg, is an atheist. Asked in 2007 whether he believed in god, Clegg replied: “No”. Ed Miliband also declared following his leadership victory in 2010 that he was not a believer. ”I don’t believe in God personally, but I have great respect for those people who do,” he said. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/19/atheism-in-parliament-congress_n_3958954.html



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