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RE student teachers on the Religious Education module at the University of Chester.

Dr Wendy Dossett, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University, leads an innovative undergraduate module designed to shape future curriculum leaders in religious education, and works in a schools liaison role for TRS-UK – the professional association for UK Theology and Religious Studies Departments. She is the current holder of the British Association for the Study of Religions Teaching and Learning Fellowship. Back in 2016, the Department of TRS, through Dr Dossett, contributed evidence to a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Religious Education, entitled Improving Religious Literacy: A Contribution to the Debate.

Fiona Bruce, MP, is the Chair of the APPG for Religious Education. During the recent parliamentary debate about anti-semitism, she mentioned the report, and the University’s contribution to it – highlighting the importance of education for developing religious and cultural literacy.

She said: “As chair of the all-party group on religious education, I am aware of the number of highly dedicated RE teachers throughout the country, yet as our report Improving Religious Literacy: A Contribution to the Debate highlighted, over recent years RE has not been given the priority or resources that it should have had in many schools. I am pleased that Education Ministers are now seeking to address this, because for many children today RE serves as the main or sole space in which they encounter and discuss different religious beliefs, values and meaning.

“Poor-quality RE can have a lasting detrimental effect on the extent of children’s ability to understand and engage with those of different faiths. In turn, that can affect their ability throughout life to engage intelligently and positively in an increasingly diverse society. A submission to the all-party group from the University of Chester’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies said: “Religious literacy enables willingness and ability to live with religious and cultural tensions and with conflicting beliefs and practices. It supports social cohesion by providing spaces where different views can be aired, listened to and engaged with without the pressure to conform to an overall perspective.”

Dr Dossett said: “High quality education in religion and worldviews, at all levels of the education system, is crucial for building a society in which stereotypes and prejudices don’t flourish, and in which public debate is sensitive and informed. Understanding the role of religious and cultural narratives in shaping power structures and experience, in other words ‘religious and cultural literacy’, is key to this. I am thrilled that our submission to the report has been quoted in such an important national debate.”

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