Birmingham schools inspections – Bishop of Norwich on impact of religious education

In the House of Lords on 9th June 2014 the schools minister Lord Nash repeated the Statement made by the Secretary of State for Education on schools in Birmingham. After the Statement, the Bishop of Norwich, Rt Rev Graham James, asked a question of the minister:

The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, the Minister may not be aware that earlier this afternoon in his maiden speech, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford said that good religious education is one of the best ways of countering religious extremism. I would be interested to know whether the Minister agrees. Given that none of the schools subject to these inspections in Birmingham were faith schools—although listening to our discussion, you would have thought otherwise—does it not seem that appropriate, well balanced and enriching religious education may have been an area of neglect? I cannot help but wonder whether this has been facilitated too easily by the way in which religious education has sometimes been marginalised in the curriculum by the Department for Education in recent years and whether we are reaping some reward for that.

Lord Nash (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools): I agree entirely with the comments made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich. This certainly raises issues on how we inspect for religious education.