Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs sat together in the room working towards a common goal - to pass on religious knowledge and principles to the next generation.
The Annual General Meeting 2015 of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales was as usual a melting pot where representatives of principal faith communities met together to assess the past year and discuss the future. Other organisations such as the Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (SACRE), National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), The Association of RE Advisers, Inspectors and Consultants (AREAIC) and the Federation of RE Centres were also present.
Apart from the agenda at hand, a few items of note were discussed that could be beneficial to our community:
a) Engaging Scholars
The meeting was held at Western Marble Arch Synagogue, which is an impressive, well-maintained structure. Although the synagogue is not strictly for Orthodox Jews, gender segregation is provided during prayers. The presentation by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfield was very witty and he kept the audience fully engaged. This is especially attractive to the students who come to visit the synagogue on school trips. Since our mosque is also open to school visits and our scholars visit schools as well, this kind of engaging and interesting camaraderie with the audience is something that should be nurtured amongst our speakers.
b) Recruiting New Teachers
There was a presentation and discussion on how to encourage more graduates to become RE teachers. In the last issue of the Times Educational Supplement, there were 144 advertisements calling for RE teachers.
It would be wise for The Education Board of The World Federation or COEJ to publicise RE as a career in the community so that we have enough professional representation in the secular education sector.
c) RE Quality Mark
The RE Quality Mark Project was introduced by one of the former OFSTED inspectors. The RE Quality Mark (REQM) is an accreditation system which recognises good practice in religious education. It is designed to be a mechanism for whole school improvement beyond religious education since its principal focus is enhancing the experience of education. The REQM is available to all community schools and 62 schools have already attained REQM which has 3 levels – gold, silver and bronze.
This is something that should be incorporated into the MCE project and definitely an area for the Assessment and Evaluation work stream to study.
d) REC Board Membership
Elections were held for the positions of Chairperson, Treasurer, Company Secretary and seven board members of the RE Council and it was good to see that Aliya Azam of Al Khoei Foundation was re-elected as a board member.
In order to be able to play an active role in REC, one of us should try to get onto the board. It is not difficult to get elected and would allow us a great advantage in understanding and providing the needs of the current generation of both Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to Islam.