Religion and RE: yesterday and tomorrow 

RE is a subject with a past and a future, linked in all kinds of ways. Our communities press our governments across the UK to change the subject to be better suited to learning in the coming decade.

In Wales, the new subject of Religion, Values, and Ethics needs support to grow stronger than RE used to be. Northern Ireland needs a plural turn and some fresh energies in its Christianity-based RE for the subject to stay relevant. Scottish teachers’ new association, STARME, recognises that RME and RMPS need teachers who are better qualified, updated, and able to build the subject stronger. England wants a national strategy for the study of religion and worldviews. In all four UK nations, the recent decades of strength feel sometimes precarious, and while the place of religion in education in the UK is the envy of many other nations, complacency is not going to help us survive and thrive. 

That’s why we have focused on the ‘yesterdays’ of RE and the ‘tomorrows’ as well. 

But religions too must look back and forward. All who teach RE might agree (and that’s not a common sentence starter from me) that those who forget the religious past are in danger of repeated mistakes in the future. That’s why I’m so proud to feature our cover story this term, based on the superb movie ‘Where is Anne Frank?’ If this oh-so-influential young voice of Judaism from the deadly Nazi past in Amsterdam is today found only in museums we are in trouble. The film asks: where is Anne Frank today? Wherever people are marginalised, victimised, or denied their freedoms by oppression, there’s Anne Frank now. Show it to your classes. 

I love holistic visions of RE, in which a pupils’ personal position is challenged, deepened, or relativised by a close encounter with lots of other experiences, ideas, and perspectives. I think we have a good set of ‘yesterdays’ in RE / RVE / RME in which the power of good learning to explore respect for others, encounter diversity, and how I stand in relation to the rest of humanity has been alive. 

For all our tomorrows, as teachers of RE, the ambition, I’d suggest, remains: whatever future shapes the subject takes, it will thrive if our pupils leave their lessons wondering about their own beliefs, values, ideas, and ways of living. 

The magazine has 50+ ideas about how this might happen in its pages this term. I hope you find some to use and enjoy.