Suffolk recognised in inclusive education award

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Suffolk SACRE has received a Special Commendation for its Teaching Controversial Issues Toolkit.

Suffolk County Council's Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education (SACRE) has been recognised in a national award celebrating those SACREs that work hardest at promoting the growth of mutual understanding between those of different religious beliefs.

Each local authority in England and Wales is required to convene a SACRE that monitors the assemblies and Religious Education (RE) that are taught in most local schools. Though often overlooked, SACREs can have a crucial role in boosting the growth of respect and empathy between those of different religions and beliefs, given the potential of high quality RE to advance these aims.

The Suffolk SACRE has been granted a Special Commendation by judges of the 2017 Accord Inclusivity Award for its 'Teaching Controversial Issues Toolkit', which seeks to give confidence and offer practical guidance to local teachers in delivering controversial issues linked to:

  • A School and teacher's ‘Prevent’ duty to stop people being drawn into terrorist-related activity
  • A School's obligation to promote pupils' Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development
  • The requirement on schools to teach Fundamental British Values (of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs)

The toolkit was produced with support from Suffolk County Council's Localities and Partnerships team who secured Prevent grant funding from the Home Office.

This funding was used to commission the work, project managed by the SACRE, which drew on established relationships it had forged with members of local religion as well as belief groups and classroom teachers.

The SACREs work included consulting with local teachers about their needs and wishes from the proposed resources.

The SACRE's flexible and non-prescriptive kit provides a ‘6 Step Plan’ to structure the delivery of sensitive and controversial issues, and is accompanied by a bank of resources to support teachers, which focus on 9 themes related to the Prevent duty.

The nine themes are: sense of belonging; terrorism; extremism; hate crime; tolerance; being British; radicalisation; world events; culture and faith.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE, who served as Chair of the 2017 Accord Inclusivity Award judging panel, said:

“The judges consider the toolkit to be of national significance, which highlights the skill and leadership that those involved with RE can offer in addressing and teaching about controversial, sensitive and important religious and cultural issues. They commend the kit, along with the joint working involved in its production, to others.”

Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, Councillor Gordon Jones said:

“We are thrilled to be recognised for the hard work that Suffolk SACRE have put in to produce the tool kit for teaching controversial issues.

“We have had really positive feedback from school staff who have used the toolkit. It can give teachers more confidence to have conversations about controversial topics on one to one, small group or in whole class scenarios. The materials are also flexible so they can be used across the school and in different subject areas.

“This is the first time the judges of the Accord Inclusivity award have decided to issue a Special Commendation. This is a real accolade and I would like to congratulate the members of SACRE who gave a great deal of their own time to the project.”

Suffolk County Councillor Joanna Spicer, member of the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education, said:

“The SACRE identified a need to support staff in schools to have conversations and deliver lessons about controversial topics. When the opportunity arose to apply for Prevent grant funding, the Prevent Delivery Group supported the SACRE to gain the funding they needed to develop this toolkit.

“It is fantastic to see that Suffolk County Council’s SACRE have received national recognition for this great achievement.”

Now in its eighth year, the annual Accord Inclusivity Award has previously sought to reward state funded schools that work hardest at promoting an inclusive ethos and advancing the growth of mutual understanding, particularly on the grounds of religion and ethnicity. The 2017 Award was open to all 174 SACREs in England and Wales.

Joining Rabbi Romain on the judging panel were former National Lead for Religious Education within Ofsted, Alan Brine; member of Parliament’s Joint Committee on National Security, Baroness Kishwer Falkner; Chief Executive Officer at the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, Rudolf Eliott Lockhart; and Anglican Priest and broadcaster, with interests in interfaith dialogue and conflict resolution, the Reverend Ruth Scott.