A new syllabus is being launched “to make children aware of non-beliefs” in schools across Lancashire, U.K.
Students as young as four, according to Lancashire Telegraph, will be taught about atheism in Blackburn with Darwen schools for the first time.
The six major faiths – Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism – will continue to be a part of the RE (Religious Education) curriculum, with humanism added to the list, education chiefs stressed.
“We really must recognize that some people do not believe in God and do not have a religious background,” said Fiona Moss, a primary specialist and RE Curriculum Adviser, to LT.
Hoping to support children towards becoming good citizens not only in Blackburn but in the world as well, Moss noted, “The aim is for them to be confident wherever they settle.”
The syllabus was created based on the RE syllabus in Leicester (one of the first places to teach about atheism) and 2001 census results, which revealed that more than 10,000 people did not follow a religion.
“This is the first time we have given respect for non-religious life stances,” remarked Dot Thomson, a school improvement officer, as reported by LT. “I would not describe [the syllabus] as radical but it is disassociated from what went before in Blackburn with Darwen.”
Thomson expects that this year’s census will show the diverse faiths and beliefs in the area.
“We don’t want the future to be blind,” Chris Thayne, the chair of Blackburn with Darwen Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education, told the local publication. “We want it to be illuminated. We need understanding without prejudice.”
While many were enthusiastic about the new syllabus, some, including Muslims, found it to be dangerous.
Salim Mulla, chair of Lancashire Council of Mosques told LT it could confuse children.
The Lancashire borough yields the third highest Muslim population in the U.K. and is the highest outside of London.
But the Rev. Kevin Logan, a regular Lancashire Telegraph columnist and religious community leader, stated that he wasn’t worried about Christianity. “It can stand against any belief and come out in a good light,” he said.
“It is quite a change but it is completely right to recognize atheism and humanism. They are religions like any others,” Logan added. “It is just that people worship man instead of a god.”
Set to launch in September, 28 primary and secondary community schools will witness the curriculum change. Faith schools can also teach the syllabus.