Teaching Christianity and Other News

Today’s round-up of religious news highlights poll data in support of the improved teaching of religious education (RE) in schools and presents a gender breakdown of last week’s vote on women bishops in the Church of England’s General Synod.

Teaching Christianity in RE

There is ‘widespread support in England for the teaching of Christianity as part of Religious Education’ in schools, according to newly-released data. Two-thirds (64%) of English adults agree that children need to learn about Christianity in order to understand English history, and 57% to comprehend the English culture and way-of-life. Even among those describing themselves as not religious the figures are 54% and 41% respectively.

Just under one-half (44%) of the English also say that more attention should be given to the teaching of Christianity in schools, and this is particularly true of the over-55s, albeit much less so (26%) among those identifying as not religious. But 37% of all adults feel that many RE teachers do not know enough about Christianity themselves in order to be able to teach it effectively.

Areas of Christianity which people regard as especially important for children to learn about in RE are the history of Christianity (58%), major Christian events and festivals (56%), and how Christianity distinguishes right from wrong (51%). Fewer (38%) mention that pupils should be taught the Bible, with no more than 30% wanting them to learn the Lord’s Prayer.

It would naturally be wrong to infer from these results that adults solely wish to prioritize the teaching of Christianity in RE at the expense of other world faiths (or none). Indeed, other polls indicate strong support for a pluralistic approach to RE, but (apparently) this was not explored in this particular investigation.

Source: Online survey by YouGov among 1,832 adults aged 18 and over in England between 16 and 18 May 2012. The poll was conducted on behalf of Oxford University’s Department of Education as the initial stage of a national intervention project, led by Dr Nigel Fancourt and funded by various charitable trusts, to support teachers tackling the subject of Christianity in schools. It seeks to address concerns raised by Ofsted inspectors and others about how Christianity is currently being taught.

The full data from the survey have yet to be released into the public domain. This BRIN report is therefore based upon various online media coverage on 26 November 2012, when some of the findings were published, particularly in a press release by Oxford University at:


Gender analysis of General Synod vote on women bishops

The Church of England published on 26 November 2012 the General Synod electronic voting results for the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure, debated (and lost) on 20 November 2012. The list appears at:


From the list of names BRIN has compiled an analysis of voting by the gender of General Synod members in each of the three Houses (of Bishops, Clergy, Laity), excluding the two episcopal abstentions, as follows:











































It can be calculated that, across the Synod as a whole, opposition to the Measure to permit women bishops stood at 29% among male members and 23% for female members (with an average of 27%). However, whereas only one of the women in the House of Clergy, or 2%, was opposed, the proportion was 36% in the House of Laity. Indeed, in the House of Laity the Measure failed to attain the requisite two-thirds majority for passing among both male and female members (64% each voting in favour).

Social welfare

There are a few – but not fully consistent – religious differences in attitudes to social welfare, according to a new study. Christians (75%) are somewhat more likely than those with no religion (66%) to say that ‘the creation of the welfare state is one of Britain’s proudest achievements’. However, more of the latter (76%) than the former (68%) agree that ‘everyone has the right to a minimum standard of living which should be paid for if necessary by the welfare state’. Slightly more Christians (67%) than nones (62%) consider that the benefits system is not working well and needs improvement or radical overhaul.

In the view of 48% of Christians and 40% of nones the level of benefits people receive should be proportionate to the amount of tax which they have paid. Larger numbers of Christians than those of no religion favour universal state pensions (77% versus 72%) and winter fuel allowance (25% against 20%), but the reverse is true of universal child benefit (supported by 39% compared with 43%).

Source: Telephone survey of 1,001 Britons aged 18 and over by ComRes for BBC Radio 4 on 16-18 November 2012. The number of respondents for religious groups other than Christians and none (n = 548 and 297 respectively) is too small to be meaningful. Full data tables published on 27 November and available at:


Profiling the ‘nones’

The number of Britons professing to have no religion reached 36% in a recent poll, but they are not evenly spread across the demographic groups. They are particularly to be found among those aged 18-34, of whom they constitute 47%, and they account for only 26% of the over-65s. Doubtless in reflection of this youthful profile, the nones comprise 42% of persons with the lowest annual household income (up to £14,000). They also have an above-average representation in South-West and Northern England and Wales (41%). By contrast, they are under-represented (28%) among Conservative voters, 69% of the latter being Christians (13% more than for all adults).

Source: Online survey of 2,066 Britons aged 18 and over, conducted by Populus on 24-26 October 2012 on behalf of the Conservative Party. Details contained in table 18 at:



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5 Responses to Teaching Christianity and Other News

  1. Stuart James says:

    It’s rather annoying that there has been so much coverage of the Oxford survey of Christianity within RE and yet no published data available.

  2. The Oxford University reserarch referred to here was sponsored by two religious groups with an interest in bringing Christianity to children. One, the Jerusalem Trust is a missionary organisation with a self-confessed proselytising agenda. The other is the Cuilham and St Gabriel’s Trust which bankrolls RE Today, which seeks to reinforce and extend religious education in schools.

    We are highly suspicious of the objectivity of this report and find it significant that the poll has not been published – what exactly did they ask in order to get these results?

  3. Clive Field says:

    BRIN entirely agrees that it would be beneficial if the full data tables from the teaching Christianity poll could be published.

    They have still not appeared on the YouGov website, so BRIN will contact Oxford University’s Department of Education to see whether they can be made available.

    In the meantime, BRIN readers may be interested in a related recent publication from the Oxford Department:


    It is available at:


  4. Stuart James says:

    Thank you for the link .

    I look forward to finding out if you receive a response from Oxford University’s Department of Education.

  5. Pingback: University of Oxford Project to tackle teaching of Christianity in the classroom | eChurch Blog

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