Humanists Praise High Court Ruling On Nicky Morgan's Religious Studies GCSE

Humanists are celebrating a "landmark" legal victory in their fight with the government over a GCSE Religious Studies (RS) teaching they say would prioritise world views of established religions.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan made "an error in law" as changes to the RS subject content failed to "take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner", the High Court ruled on Wednesday.

Changes to the RS GCSE subject content were announced last February, leading to complaints over the priority given to religious views - in particular Buddhism, Christianity, Catholic Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

Today's ruling was a victory for three families, supported by the British Humanist Association (BHA), who claimed Ms Morgan had taken a "skewed" approach and was failing to reflect in schools the pluralistic nature of the UK.

Nicky Morgan made an 'error in law', the High Court ruled

Allowing the three families' application for judicial review, Mr Justice Warby ruled there had been "a breach of the duty to take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in a pluralistic manner".

Kate Bielby, one of the parents involved, said: "My daughter and I are delighted by today’s decision and the clear statement that it makes in support of equality of religion and belief.

"It is long past time that the beliefs of the non-religious were treated on an equal footing with religions in the school curriculum.

"I am confident that whatever changes are introduced on the back of this judgement, Religious Studies will be a fairer, more inclusive subject, benefitting all children whatever their religious or non-religious background."

BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said: "We have made the case for many decades that the school curriculum on religions should include major non-religious world views such as humanism.

"It is great news that the Court has now said the law is with us. This is a stunning victory for the three humanist families who stood up to the Government on this issue.

"It is also a victory for the vast majority of people who believe in the importance of a religious education curriculum that is inclusive, balanced, and pluralistic, and which contributes to mutual understanding between people of all religions and none."

The BHA said the ruling would not force the DfE to change the GCSE itself but it would mean religious education syllabuses would now have to include non-religious world views such as humanism "on an equal footing".

"Pupils taking a GCSE will also have to learn about non-religious world views alongside the course," a spokesman said.

A Department for Education spokesman said the judgment "does not challenge the content or structure of that new GCSE and the judge has been clear it is in no way unlawful".

In a statement, he said: "Our new RS GCSE ensures pupils understand the diversity of religious beliefs in Great Britain through the study of more than one religion, an important part of our drive to tackle segregation and ensure pupils are properly prepared for life in modern Britain.

“It is also designed to ensure pupils develop knowledge and understanding of both religious and non-religious beliefs.

“Today’s judgment... will not affect the current teaching of the RS GCSE in classrooms. We will carefully consider the judgment before deciding on our next steps.”

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