Reflections on the way forward: a neo-liberal future for RE in England?

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This article begins by briefly considering a view of the wider socio-economic and political landscape of the past 75 years, before considering some of the challenges facing RE in 2020 and beyond. It evaluates some of the Commission on RE’s recommendations, particularly focusing on challenges to the existing structures of RE. It argues that the subject was formed as part of a Social Democratic conceptualisation of education, the structures of which have not responded, or indeed have been resistive to the market-based, neoliberal political educational philosophy which has taken hold since the 1980s. The paper suggests that the fault lines of academisation are the place where the tectonic plates of social democratic RE and neoliberal education collide most visibly. It then uses neoliberalism as a lens through which the recommendations are analysed. It draws upon data from a survey conducted in 2017 and other published material, in order to give some weight to the discussion of recommendations around a National Entitlement, Agreed Syllabus Conferences and the reform of SACREs as LANRWs. It concludes that the Future for RE proposed in The Way Forward is firmly rooted in a neoliberal educational worldview driven by consumer choice rather than democratic control.
Original languageEnglish
JournalProfessional REflection: Theory and practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2020


  • Religious Education
  • Policy
  • Schools


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