Thursday, 9 May 2013


Leicester SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) meets this afternoon at Quaker Meeting House, Queens Road.

One of the main purposes of Leicester SACRE is to receive requests for "Determinations" from city schools. If the head teacher 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 head teacher should consider whether it might be appropriate to ask the SACRE to grant a "determination" in accordance with the law. A determination is the decision of the SACRE as to whether it is 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. Leicester Council of Faiths doesn't have voting rights at SACRE. We're involved 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. Today we hear an application for a Determination from Abbey Community Primary and application for renewal of a Determination from Judgemeadow Community College.

A regular agenda item at SACRE meetings has one of the members make a presentation on their religion or belief. Today Stephanie Maude (immediate past Chair of Leicester SACRE) gives the presentation on the Bahá'í Faith. She does a great job, focusing on appropriate and relevant themes and topics (including the distinctive contribution that the Bahá'í Faith can make to Religious Education) with some nice supporting illustrations. Think of her offering a perfectly ade cake - to which I feel compelled to add a few sprinkles. I always like people to know that, before there was even one gurdwara, mosque or mandir in Leicester, there was a local Bahá'í Centre. This was in the house owned by John and Vera Long in New Walk, between 1957 and 1963, part of which was dedicated to meeting and worship. I also mention that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visits to the west, during which he warned about the oncoming First World War, would be featured in Leicester's "fringe" commemoration of the Centenary of the Great War. (After today's meeting, I chat with Allan Hayes about the possibility of an unholy alliance between Leicester Council of Faiths, Christians Aware / Faith Awareness and Leicester Secular Society to create and promote this fringe.)

Under AOB I mention next week's meeting of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue Group week ("Learning for Life: How Islam is taught to children in a multi-faith society"), which has been arranged specially for members of Leicester SACRE. I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this; indeed, I expected to see it on today's agenda. To my further surprise, virtually no one here has heard of this and no invitation to the meeting has been received by SACRE. I'm able to call up the flier on my iPhone and pass it to Anne Fishenden, who is chairing the meeting, just to show I'm not making things up. Before leaving Quaker Meeting House this evening, I forward the flier with details of the meeting at Madani to SACRE's officers. It sounds like an interesting event and I hope that despite the glaring omission of inviting the very people for whom the meeting has been arranged, that it gets decent support come Wednesday.

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