Earlier this year, our national media proclaimed ‘And after double maths it will be… paganism: Schools told to put witchcraft and druids on RE syllabus’. (Read more: http://tinyurl.com/bt5yaqv)
This article, and others like it, was in response to the publication of the agreed syllabus for Religious education in Cornwall. As part of that syllabus, the Cornish SACRE (Standing Advisory council for Religious Education) had included a unit of work reflecting on the religious landscape of Cornwall- alongside many churches, there are also a number of pre-Christian standing stones. A logical inclusion if RE is to help students to understand and appreciate the religious diversity in their local area. It was a typical example of media sensationalism, demonstrating a lack of understanding about the nature and purpose of religious education as well as Paganism.
The journalists seemed to be under a common misapprehension that RE in schools is about teaching young people what to believe. That may have been the case, many, many years ago. But for a very long time, RE has aimed to provide young people with an understanding of the religious beliefs reflected in the wider community, teaching students about religions and giving them an opportunity to consider what they might learn from different religious traditions.
The Pagan Federation is one of approximately fifty organisations of the RE Council of England and Wales. The RE Council of England and Wales was established in 1973 to represent the collective interests of a wide variety of professional associations and faith communities in deepening and strengthening provision for Religious Education. The reception I’ve had as a Pagan Federation representative at RE council and National association of Standing Advisory Councils for Religious Education has been one of a combination of interest and enthusiasm. Indeed, a number of senior representatives of the RE community approached me to indicate that there was interest in providing some education about Paganism in schools- particularly with regard to teaching children between the ages of 3 and 11. Clearly, many schools and teachers are not under the same misapprehension as a few journalists seem to be suffering!
What the Pagan Federation hope to produce in response to the request for resources, is a complete range of downloadable curriculum materials including lesson plans, Power Point presentations, images and stories that can either be used as they appear, or using elements within lessons devised by the local SACRE or teachers themselves. Lesson plans will be designed so they meet the latest OFSTED guidance statements for RE as well as the level appropriate assessment targets of learning about religion and learning from religion. These materials will be presented to a range of Pagans and RE professionals for consultation prior to launching them for download from the Education section of the Pagan Federation website.
Lessons on Paganism, as with lessons on other religious traditions, are not expected to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of Paganism and the different paths under the Pagan umbrella. They will provide an overview that can be explored beyond the classroom, should students become interested. Paganism in RE lessons is highly unlikely to be given the same amount of timetable time as religions already covered by the R curriculum. However, as a significant religious community within the wider community, it may well follow a similar pattern to that of the Cornwall agreed syllabus for religious education, forming part of a unit looking at religious traditions found in the wider community.
Every local authority has a SACRE and once our RE materials are made available to teachers, SACRE and the public, it would be very helpful if every SACRE had connections to the local Pagan community and, ideally had a Pagan representative as a member of the local SACRE. If you would like to represent Paganism on your local SACRE and would like support and advice about how to go about joining please get in touch via our enquiries email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our greatest challenge as Pagans, has been a lack of knowledge and understanding about our beliefs and practices. It would be nice to think that, in a relatively short space of time, RE lessons about Paganism will have made that challenge a very rare occurrence. Imagine the implications for the future. Children will be educated to recognise prejudice against Paganism and misinformation about Pagans for what it is. Journalists of the future may be less inclined to print sensationalist articles that they know are a false representation of Pagans and Paganism. Now is a perfect time for Pagans to be seen to be active in their community.