Atheism to Be Taught in School RE Lessons; MINISTERS UNVEIL NEW FRAMEWORK FOR TRADITIONAL SUBJECT

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Byline: DOMINIC HAYES

ATHEISM should be taught alongside Christianity and other religions in schools, the Government will say this week.

New guidelines say the views of religious and non-religious pupils deserve equal respect. While Christianity should take centre-stage in religious education lessons between the ages of five and 16, pupils should learn about minority faiths such as Baha'i and Zoroastrianism.

The framework is clearly designed to appease critics who fear Christianity has been relegated to just one of several competing religions. It is also intended to be "inclusive", turning RE into a forum for teaching children about right and wrong.

Education Secretary Charles Clarke will launch the guidelines - developed by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority exam watchdog - on Thursday.

They are backed by the Church of England, the Catholic Church, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, among others.

The framework has no legal force but the Government hopes local education authority committees will use it as a template for their RE policies.

Children have to study RE up to the age of 16, unless their parents opt to withdraw them from lessons.

Although pupils do not have to take exams in the subject, it is increasingly popular as both a oneand two-year GCSE option.

Mr Clarke said RE played an important role in children's " spiritual, moral, social and cultural development". …