Leave religion outside the classroom and focus on real life

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From: Michael Cartwright, Glamis Close, Garforth, Leeds.

THIS is a letter I sent to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, in response to his view that religious education should form part of the English Baccalaureate:

I understand why you would take such a stance but I believe that it is better for the future of English education, and therefore the prospects of young people, if religion is left outside the curriculum and education is left to focus on more important and relevant topics.

Those interested in learning more about religion should pursue it in their own time, not within the regular school week.

I, too, believe that education is good for its own sake but the curriculum needs to be flexible and adapt to the changing world; this means focusing more on topics that young people can utilise fully.

An ever-changing world means that new topics are always likely to emerge and that, as a result, others will fall from favour, such as Latin and sociology.

Religion is increasingly irrelevant in today’s world yet preparing young people for the world of work is, in the view of many including me, distinctly more important and fundamental.

More and more employers are saying that job applicants are under-prepared for the labour market or unsuitable for the positions applied for.

I know that school management teams take the view that a holistic approach to education is preferable to one of focusing primarily on meeting businesses’ needs; but without a certain amount of “box-ticking” (and that may include “soft skills” such as communication skills, presentability and what we might still call a good work ethic), young people are undeniably in a weaker position than they should and could be to support their future prospects. They need to be tooled-up for employment as well as the other aspects of adulthood.

By the way, the reason our computers register the supposed date since Christ’s death is that they were programmed that way by man – not as an act of God.

From: Canon Michael Storey, Healey Wood Road, Brighouse.

I HAVE been following the debate on the importance of teaching RE in schools and strongly support the Archbishop of York in his concern that RE is being pushed aside.

One has only to study the cause of many of the wars going on at this moment (and throughout history) to realise that religious fervour is and often has been the cause.

The whole issue of who has the right to live in the not so “Holy Land” is a religious question. Conflicts in Nigeria and Sudan are also religion-based.

It is vital that all school children learn the facts of all major religions so that they may compare what they learn with how some religious fanatics actually live up to their particular creeds. Ignorance in religious matters is not the way forward in the 21st century.

From: John Gordon, Whitcliffe Lane, Ripon.

ONE aspect of the technological age that is paying dividends is in the field of teacher training.

In the old days a new teacher was confronted with a new class, say, in French, armed with his own knowledge of the language and a well-used textbook.

He then ploughed through the book, usually Whitmarsh, supplying as much variation as he could think of.

Nowadays he has a gold mine of ideas and teaching techniques, gathered together on the web. Experienced teachers from all over the world contribute to this compendium of information and the new teacher can try out techniques which he would never be able to muster if he were left on his own in the classroom.

His horizon is miraculously lifted and the knowledge and experience of the old and the wise is passed on overnight.

This is one of the many advantages provided by the computer age and must be welcomed by the profession.

From: John G Davies, Alma Terrace, East Morton, Keighley.

IN spite of the National Literacy Strategy tested with SATs and checked by Ofsted, England’s primary children seem to be sliding down the international rankings.

Contradictory views like those espoused in Betty Marsden’s letter (Yorkshire Post, April 28) will do little to improve things. In what way is learning tables by heart good and learning words by rote bad?

Contrast her simplistic views with those given in the UK Literacy Association’s document “Teaching Reading: What the Evidence Says”.

It concludes “studies of schools and classrooms where children are taught to read most effectively show consistently that high-achieving classes are characterised by a balanced approach in which attention to word recognition skills is matched by attention to comprehension with the consistent message that understanding and effective communication – not just word recognition – are what literacy is about”.

Reading is a complex process and requires sophisticated teaching approaches; unfortunately this reality conflicts with popular views and the political necessity for a high profile “magic bullet” to cure society’s ills. The heavily promoted “synthetic phonics” approach has been exposed as oversold; it is merely part of a “balanced approach”.

On its own, it does little for comprehension.