This article reports on research undertaken between
July 2014 and November 2015 in secondary schools (for young people aged 11–16) across England to ask what young people need to know about religion and belief in schools in order to increase ‘religious literacy’ when they go in to the workplace and wider society. The research arises in the context of an urgent debate which has been underway in England about the future of Religious Education (RE), a subject which remains compulsory in England under the Education Act 1944, but which gives rise to widespread confusion about its purposes, content and structure, as reflected in growing criticisms of the policy muddle that frames it. The key findings are: that there is an appetite for review and reform of teaching and learning about religion and belief in schools, inside and outside the RE space, in order to clarify confusion about its purposes, content and structure; that the key perceived purposes which are emerging are the ability to engage with diversity, and personal spiritual (but not religious) development; and that stakeholders want to learn about more religions and beliefs, and ways of thinking about them, which reflect a much broader and more fluid real contemporary religion and belief landscape of England and the world than education has reflected.
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