"I think RE should be scrapped from high school"
PUBLISHED: 13:58 13 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:58 13 November 2019
Mum-of-two Charlotte Smith-Jarvis thinks it's time for education leaders to 'think outside the box' when it comes to the subject.
There's no getting away from it - Britain isn't the same as it was 100 years ago. Christianity is no longer the dominant religion. Our cultures and communities are formed of a colourful melting pot of beliefs. But, also, society is growing ever secular. The 'religions' of our young people today are much more abstract. They worship at the altar of gaming, Youtube, streamed TV, veganism.
So, to echo a point made by my daughter recently: "Why are we still being taught RE? We learnt all about the religions in primary school!"
And I agree with her. The time our children spend in school is precious. Why go over old ground when there are so many other, practical, important life skills they could be learning.
Now while I'm not saying religion should be a faux pas topic (our teenagers should be able to know and understand the premise of the leading faiths - usually taught at length in primary school), I do personally feel that there are a multitude of supplementary topics that should be fed to them during their late years of schooling. Is it time for a new type of lesson completely?
The following are just some of the things my own children say they want to learn, and subjects I believe would be worthwhile and valuable to incorporate into every high school..
Religion and tolerance
As above most children, when they reach high school age, have a firm grasp of the key religions. But let's widen out the discussion. Teach them about tolerance and kindness. Teach them what constitutes hate crime. Teach them about the devastation of the genocides of the Holocaust, Africa, Afghanistan, Bosnia.
Beyond religion, something that really matters to young people these days and is much more relevant to their lives is gender. Let's educate them about LGBTQ. What's does it mean? What is it to be cis, agender, transgender, gender fluid?
Unless children have the opportunity to take politics for GCSE, or have a private or particularly enlightened educational environment, many of them will leave high school of voting age, but without a flipping clue as to how or why to vote. Isn't this madness? We have a whole generation of people who are legally able to make their mark, but can't or won't because they simply haven't been equipped for the conversation. My own daughter asked me: "What do left wing and right wing mean?"
And I remember being aged 16 and simply voting for who my parents chose because, well, I didn't know any different. I wonder how many other kids have done the same? Let's teach them how the voting system works. How to register. What (without showing any preference for any party) the key historical mandates are of each of the parties. Let's talk to them about Brexit because, for God's sake, whatever happens will have a huge impact on their futures.
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"What does APR mean on a credit card?"
Yet another question thrown into the ring by my 13-year-old. In just a few short years, after college, she may well attend university and will have to get loans and cards and financial help to fund her studies and cost of living (I'm sure with a bit of help from the 'bank of mum and dad').
As soon as they're in work, be that a part-time gig to pay for those summertime festivals, or full time employment (let's not forget not everyone goes to uni) our kids are inundated with credit offers. Credit cards. Pay day loans. Store cards. Let's get those experts into school to explain more to them about what APR means. What happens if they get into debt. Credit ratings. How to get a mortgage. How to start saving for a mortgage. The importance of savings. How much to put aside in a savings account each month. All tools that will genuinely put them on a good footing when they leave secondary school.
Cooking, drama, music
I had a debate (OK, fight) with a friend at the beginning of the summer holidays because I genuinely believe our kids are not learning enough cooking at school. Some schools have phased out food tech completely. My own children get one lesson every fortnight for about a term and a half.
"Why on earth should schools teach cooking," said friend argued. "It's down to the parents!"
But this same friend does believe in the importance of drama, PE and music. None of them 'hard skills' like science, maths or English, but surely of equal weight to cooking, which is an essential part of everyday life that will inform a huge part of our youngsters' lives. Being able to cook and know about ingredients, seasonality and how to shop smart will help them save money and eat better when they eventually leave home. Let's not forget obesity is a growing issue in the UK with recent statistics showing that if children are obese at age three, they are still likely to be overweight later into their adolescence. Knowing how to cook could change these childrens' lives.
Being able to make a cheap tomato sauce and roux. Being able to boil an egg or a pan of pasta. Just as essential, if not more so, than getting out on the field to play a game of football or engaging in a bit of trampolining.
In addition to cookery, music, drama and art have all taken a bashing in recent years. OK, so there's no guarantee every school has the next Ed Sheeran, but the arts are about so much more than that. Studies have shown a correlation between the learning of an instrument and attainment in maths. And those drama lessons? Instrumental in building confidence and public speaking skills….perhaps for a leader of the future?
What do you think? Is it time to rethink RE lessons or do you consider them a valuable part of our childrens' education? Write to me firstname.lastname@example.org