Introduction: Agreed Syllabus Conference
- Meeting of Agreed Syllabus Workshops, Standing Advisory Council for Religion, Values and Ethics (SAC), Monday, 28th March, 2022 10.00 am (Item 2.)
Hayley Jones: EAS RVE Adviser
Geraint Edwards: Solicitor, HR Business Partners
The RVE Adviser and the Legal representative introduced the Agreed Syllabus Conference and its legal framework. It was explained that each representative group would be considering the document in separate breakout groups and then re-joining to provide feedback on proposed amendments.
The new Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 came into force 29th April 2021 and established the Curriculum for Wales.
The new section 375A of the 1996 Education Act requires local authorities to adopt a RVE syllabus. The new Act amends schedule 31 of the 1996 Act to place a duty on the local authority to convene an Agreed Syllabus Conference to prepare the syllabus, specifying its constitution and requiring it to unanimously recommend the syllabus for adoption by the local authority. The Welsh Government can intervene if there is no unanimity.
One notable change is that there is no right to withdraw from RVE.
Some concerns about errors in the legal summary were raised. It was commented that there is no change to the syllabus containing Christianity as the main tradition and the other principal religions in Wales. The range incorrectly referred to is in the context of non-religious philosophical convictions. Post 16 provisions are correct.
It was suggested that pro-life and manmade climate change should be added to the examples of non-religious philosophical convictions.
A WASACRE statement covered the following points:
· It is important to keep any amendments to the curriculum for Wales guidance to a minimum.
· All guidance including RVE guidance is subject to change.
· Embedded links to parts of the Curriculum for Wales framework on Hwb make the navigation of the RVE guidance interactive and more useful for practitioners. Therefore, replacing or replicating the text and format in hard copy (rewording as our new agreed syllabus) would diminish the effectiveness of its purpose.”
· Caution was also advised about making amendments to the guidance and the legislative summary to avoid confusion. Any issues or local instructions would be better placed at the beginning of the agreed syllabus.
· The legal summary has been written by Welsh Government Legal Services and not by Civil Servants or the teams involved in drafting the RVE guidance. It has been written carefully and specifically by the legal services to reflect the openness of the law and the spirit of the curriculum for wales.
· All Agreed Syllabus Conferences must have regard to the Curriculum for Wales framework including the legal summaries when they prepare their locally agreed syllabus. It is important that the legislative summary for RVE is not changed to reflect local concerns or opinions.
Concern was expressed that if Monmouthshire doesn’t take account of the errors then our statutory obligations in relation to the contents of the agreed syllabus will not be met. If the legal summary is unchanged, there is the possibility of Judicial review.
The Legal representative stated that guidance issued by Welsh Government doesn’t take precedence over the legislation. If there is conflict between guidance (including statutory guidance) and what is written in the Act or regulations, the act or legislation takes precedence.
Whilst the agreed syllabus must be reviewed in five years, it can be reviewed earlier if required.
It was confirmed that the Church in Wales and Catholic schools will be publishing additional guidance.