Leicester SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) meets this afternoon at the Quaker Meeting House, Queens Road. A speedy taxi ride gets me here from Global Education Leicester-Shire's strawberry tea at Southfields Library, just as the meeting starts at 1645.
One of the main purposes of Leicester SACRE is to receive requests for "Determinations" from city schools. If the headteacher of a school feels that the provision of collective worship within the broadest interpretation of the law is not suitable for that particular school, then the headteacher should consider whether it might be appropriate to ask SACRE to grant a "determination" in accordance with the law. A determination is the decision of SACRE whether it's appropriate to lift the requirement for wholly or mainly broadly Christian collective worship to be provided for the school, or any class or description of pupils at the school, having regard to any circumstances relating to the family background of the pupils for which the determination is requested. The SACRE must review the determination if the school so requests and, in any event, within five years of the date when the determination was made or last reviewed. Members of SACRE discuss such requests in fixed blocks, reflecting their own interests and associations before voting on whether or not to grant the determination. Today we hear a Determination application from the Head Teacher of Catherine Junior School, supported by the Chair of the school's governors.
Leicester Council of Faiths attends meetings of SACRE as an invited observer; we have the right to speak and query, and can get involved in all sorts of activities and projects, but we don't vote on determinations or any other processes.
Among the activites that consitute the "Core Service" that Leicester Council of Faiths delivers for the City, we are requested to "Contribute fully to the SACRE". One of the ways that we've been doing this recently is by helping develop a set of booklets with the series title, "Engaging with Faith Communities in Leicester". Today we see how these booklets have progressed from their paper form, as Ben Robinson from Leicester City Council gives a quick introduction to how they will appear in their electronic format.
Following on from that, I've been asked to give a short presentation about the features and benefits of creating and developing a blog for Leicester SACRE. Some members have been talking about having a freer sort of online area where they can share ideas, seek and give support in their teaching activities etc. It's neither possible nor permissible to do this on the regular SACRE page hosted by the City Council, so a blog might be part of the answer to this perceived need. I'm going to give it a try - starting with an entry for this very meeting!
Linda Bradshaw, ACT (Advanced Skills Teacher) at Rushey Mead School gets us up out of our seats, responding to questions that she's stuck on the walls around the room. these demonstrated ways that students are being encouraged to distinguish between opinion and evidence in RE and learning the complementary (or sometimes contradictory) ways that they can be used in studying the subject.
The last item of business is feedback from two members who attended the recent Beaumanor Partnership RE conference. Being from two very different traditions and representing two very different points of view, their reports made for a stimulating contrast!
We end this the last SACRE meeting of the academic year with some time for eating together and socialising. The pleasant gardens of the Quaker Meeting House on this warm and sunny evening provide a lovely setting for this.