Religious Education In Stockton On Tees: 2008-2013

Religious Education
and the Right to Withdraw

The 1996 Education Act confirmed the right of parents to withdraw their children from religious education, either wholly or in part.

Teachers who do not wish to participate in religious education have the right to withdraw. Head teachers may also exercise their right to withdraw from religious education although they remain responsible for ensuring that provision is made for its delivery.

Information about the provision made for religious education, and the parental right of withdrawal, must be included in the school prospectus.

Parents should be free to exercise their right of withdrawal and a school must give effect to any such request. Parents are not obliged to state their reasons for seeking withdrawal. (DFE Circular 1/94). Although it is not a legal requirement to put requests for withdrawal in writing, Head teachers may wish to advise parents to do so. It is the duty of the school to support community cohesion and religious education plays an important role in this.

Parents may request alternative provision for religious education, either through attendance elsewhere or through separate provision on the premises. However, in such cases, the Local Authority and governors must be satisfied that attendance elsewhere will not interfere with attendance at school at the beginning or the end of a school session, and that separate provision on the school premises does not involve additional expenditure, and is consistent with overall curriculum aims.

In practice this occurs extremely rarely in Stockton on Tees as there is an understanding that it is not the purpose of religious education to convert children or young people to a particular point of view.


Parental rights and responsibilities
  1. An unconditional right to withdraw their children from all or part of the religious education provided by the school in its basic curriculum. Parents do not have the right to request that work in another subject be done in place of religious education and they have a responsibility to provide alternative religious education for their child.
  2. The right to a specific religious education for their children. It is the parents’ responsibility to indicate what they wish this to be. It may be provided by the parents themselves, a faith community, another school or the school itself, depending on circumstances.

School responsibilities

  1. To provide religious education for all registered pupils including those with special needs as part of the basic curriculum.
  2. To facilitate the religious education desired by parents, as far as it is practicable.
  3. To supervise children and young people adequately and to ensure that any entitlement does not negatively impact on attendance.
  4. To inform SACRE of the withdrawal of children and young people.
(These guidelines are based on the 1996 Education Act, 1988 School Standards and Framework Act, DFES circular 1/94.)

What does a school have to do if a parent asks for a child to be withdrawn from RE?

The withdrawal of any child or young person is a cause for regret, therefore, whilst parents have a right to withdraw their children from all or some religious education lessons without being required to give a reason, it is advised that a conversation should take place between the parents and the Head teacher (or subject leader) before any decision is made. The aim of such a meeting is to provide parents with an understanding about the nature and purpose of religious education as it is taught now.

SACRE should be notified of the withdrawal of any child or young person. This will be used to inform discussion on how to make the Agreed Syllabus fully inclusive of all children and young people in our schools. The aim of religious education is not to convert children or young people to a particular viewpoint or to imply that all moral and ethical standpoints are necessarily religious ones. Nor is it to encourage uncritical acceptance of religious belief and teachings or ways in which they are applied. On the contrary, both religious and non-religious world views are to be subjected to careful consideration by our children and young people both within and beyond the classroom.

The SACRE believes that the religious education classroom offers all children and young people, whatever their background, a safe place to discuss their own beliefs and those of others, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding that contributes to community cohesion.

What happens if a child or young person is withdrawn from religious education?

Parents have the right to have their children religiously educated according to their wishes during the school day. Wherever reasonable, these wishes should be met, but not at a cost to the school or the Local Authority or to the child’s or young person’s attendance. It would be reasonable for a member of the faith community to come into school voluntarily to teach a group of children or young people whose families are adherents in the time when religious education would be taught. Other lessons should not be missed.

If it is not possible to make satisfactory alternative arrangements, the parents should provide material connected to their own faith/philosophy for their child to work on while withdrawn from the religious education lesson, provided it does not conflict with the fundamental values of the school as stated in the school prospectus.

Parents do not have the right to request that work in another subject be done in place of religious education.

There is no right of withdrawal from national curriculum subjects, such as science or history, if the topics studied have a bearing on religion or religions.

Parents have a right to withdraw children and young people from acts of worship or celebration when time is given to these throughout the school.

Schools are responsible for the adequate supervision of children and young people who are withdrawn from religious education lessons and/or collective worship. They should inform parents of the arrangements and clarify whether the parents will require any advanced notice. The school prospectus should state the right of withdrawal and the arrangements that are made if a child or young person is withdrawn.

Further advice and support can be gained from the local SACRE.