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Rev Nichols: No doubt welfare system needed reform

The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Rev Vincent Nichols, has told Political Editor Tom Bradby he is in "no doubt the social security system to be reformed".

But added: "At the moment, there are people who are left in destitution and hunger and in a country as intelligent and resourceful and as affluent as ours, I believe they are problems we should tackle."

Ancient bibles and biblical texts published online

Ancient bibles and biblical texts have been made published online, as part of a major project by the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University and the Vatican Library.

Ancient bibles and biblical texts have been published online. Credit:

Hebrew and Greek manuscripts along with early printed books are among the items available on the website.

The documents are part of collections held by the libraries and the two institutions said that the texts had been selected for digitisation by a team of scholars and curators from around the world.

The website, which launched today, is available in both English and Italian and features zoomable images of the documents to allow people to study and analyse them.

It also includes essays and videos made be individuals supporting the project, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.


'Do not open champagne' just yet over women bishops

Celebrations over the potential approval of women bishops in England should not start just yet, the Archbishop of York has warned.

Members of the General Synod voted in favour of new proposals which see the introduction of women bishops.

The Church of England General Synod gave its backing today to new proposals which could see women bishops given final approval by next year. Credit: PA Wire.

However, leading conservative evangelicals said there still remained "major issues" to be resolved - prompting the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, to warn against "opening the champagne" yet.

"We should not open the champagne bottles or whatever drink we regard as celebratory because we need to agree to work together until the end," he said

The move follows a bitter row within the Church of England after the legislation failed by just six votes to get approval at the General Synod a year ago.

Magistrates could end historic practice of Bible oath

Magistrates in England and Wales could end the historic practice of swearing an oath on a holy book before giving evidence in court.

Instead, witnesses would be asked to promise "very sincerely to tell the truth" before giving evidence.

Magistrates could end Bible oath. Credit: PA

Magistrates will debate whether the current oath and affirmation are "fit for purpose" during the Magistrates' Association annual conference in Cardiff today.

Witnesses currently have the option of swearing an oath on a Bible or other holy book, or making a non-religious affirmation before a judge. It is unclear if the move would require a change in the law.

Head teacher: Government policies have devalued RE

Surrey Head Teacher Gail Larkin, vice-president of the National Association of Head Teachers, blamed Government policy changes for "devaluing" Religious Education as a subject in schools.

She told BBC Radio Four:

Consecutive governments have to take some responsibility for this. As the report says, the impact of major policy changes has been to convey the message that RE is of less value than other subjects, so head teachers are concentrating more on core subjects and subjects that can be measured and unfortunately I think that RE has fallen off the radar

RE is an absolutely vital subject in our schools and I've seen it decline but I think this comes back to the quality of teacher training - I was reading recently that graduate teacher programmes only have half a day of training for RE teaching.

– NAHT vice-president Gail Larkin


RE 'crying out for trained specialists'

Joanne Pearce, Lecturer in Religious Education at the Institute of Education, told BBC Radio Four:

Religious Education is crying out for trained subject specialists.

If you've been drafted in from history, geography, or sometimes PE or ICT, with the best will in the world - and lots of teachers are working very hard to do a very good job in an area that's not their specialist subject - it's very hard to deal with the complexities and sensitivities involved in religious education.

– Joanne Pearce Lecturer in Religious Education

British Humanist Association welcomes Ofsted's RE report

Ofsted's call for a review of the statutory arrangements for religious education has been welcomed by the British Humanist Association, which said that it is "vital that young people learn about religious and non-religious beliefs and values in an enquiring and critical way."

We have long argued that a large part of the cause of these problems is the locally determined nature of RE, leading to a huge variability of quality of attitudes towards non-religious participation and quality of syllabuses, something Oftsed has also identified as a problem.

We support Ofstedā€™s call for a review of the current legal arrangements underpinning this system, and would push for national determination instead. This position is supported by a huge number of those active in RE and we would urge Government to bring it about.

– Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association

Ofsted unsure of cause of 'significant reduction' in RE

A new report warns of a "significant reduction" in the teaching of religious education in some schools, but is less clear on the reasons for this.

It says that some headteachers cite the Government's new English Baccalaureate measure and short-course GCSEs as reasons for the reduction.

Teenagers achieve the EBacc if they score at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography. RE is not included in the list.

Ofsted said it was too early to come to a firm conclusion about the impact of the decisions to exclude RE from the EBacc and cut short courses from headline school performance measures.

Religious education 'prepares pupils for modern life'

Ofsted's director of schools, Michael Cladingbowl, has said that religion plays a "profound part in today's world" and that pupils "deserve much better" from their education:

Religious education in schools matters. It develops children's understanding of belief and the world in which we live.

At its best, it encourages children and young people to extend their natural curiosity and prepares them for life in modern society.

We saw some great examples of this during the survey, but too often we found religious education lessons being squeezed out by other subjects and children and young people leaving school with little knowledge or understanding of different religions.

– Michael Cladingbowl, director of schools, ofsted
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