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Bible 'essential to good education'

More than one in eight children think people who are religious, or of a different faith, are threatening or dangerous, according to a poll.

It suggests that while the majority of young people see the importance of learning about other beliefs, some hold negative of views of those that they see as different to themselves.

The findings come as a separate survey indicated that some teachers think teaching pupils more about the Bible and other sacred texts in schools would help youngsters' social development, cross-cultural understanding and improve community relations.

Bible Society, which commissioned the polls said that understanding religion is vital in the modern world and engaging with the Bible is essential to a good education.

Overall, almost two thirds (64%) of the eight to 15-year-olds questioned said that it was important to know about different religions.

But 7% said that they would describe someone who is religious, or has a different faith to them, as "dangerous" and a further 6% said they would describe them as "threatening".

Around 13% said they would describe such a person as "old fashioned" while 11% of youngsters said they would describe them as "weird".

The poll did find that more than one in four (26%) children think of a religious person, or someone of a different faith to them as "interesting", while 15% said they would call them "trusting" and 23% would said they would see such a person as "kind".

In general, children are more likely to report learning about the Bible than other sacred texts, with 64% saying they had read or been taught about the Christian text.

The next most commonly read were the Koran (25%) and the Torah (17%).

Children were most likely to learn about religious texts in school RE lessons, the poll suggested.

The teachers' survey revealed that around 42% of school staff believe teaching pupils more about the Bible and other sacred texts across the curriculum would improve the cross-cultural understanding of students with minority groups, while 28% said it would improve community cohesion and nearly a third said it would help with youngsters' general social development.

But less than half (47%) of the teachers questioned said that they are confident about including religious or sacred texts in their teaching plans - including one in 10 (11%) RE teachers.

James Catford, group chief executive of Bible Society, said: "Understanding religion is essential to understanding and engaging in the modern world. It's not surprising that teachers, in our research, support giving space to sacred texts in the classroom.

"Engaging with the Bible is essential to a good education. The Bible has not only shaped our politics, art, literature and music, it also helps change the lives of individuals and societies. We believe that every child has the right to encounter the Bible.

"We must work together to break down the barriers that prevent us from passing on the Bible in our schools for the benefit of future generations."

The research comes the week after the Church of England suggested that the Christian commandment to "love your neighbour" should be included in the "British values" taught to schoolchildren.

Ministers announced in June that they would consult on plans to tighten the wording on current standards in order to require all schools to "actively promote" fundamental British values, including democracy, tolerance, mutual respect, individual liberty and the rule of law.

The move came in the wake of the Trojan Horse scandal - an alleged plot by hardline Islamists to take over schools in Birmingham and promote their own ideology.

But in its response to the consultation, the Church of England said that the list of values given in the document is too narrow and "do not include several important aspects of British life".

This includes: "'Loving your neighbour' and "being prepared to receive from the outsider' as demonstrated by the Good Samaritan" as well as the importance of dissent - such as the campaign to abolish slavery, and a "commitment to the common good".

:: The YouGov polls questioned 795 teachers in England and Wales between October 24 and November 4, and 566 British children aged eight to 15 between October 24-27.


From Belfast Telegraph