Context, Complexity and Contestation: Birmingham's Agreed Syllabuses for Religious Education since the 1970s
Journal of Beliefs and Values
The present article offers an historical perspective on the 1975, 1995 and 2007 Birmingham Agreed Syllabuses for Religious Education. It draws upon historical evidence uncovered as part of ‘The hidden history of curriculum change in religious education in English schools, 1969–1979’ project, and curriculum history theories, especially David Labaree’s observations about the distance between the ‘rhetorical’ and ‘received’ curricula. We argue that, contrary to the existing historiography, curriculum change in religious education (RE) has been evolutionary not revolutionary. Multiple reasons are posited to explain this, not least among which is the capacity and agency of teachers. Furthermore, we argue that ongoing debates about the nature and purpose of RE, as exemplified in the Birmingham context, reflect the multiple expectations that religious educators and other stakeholders had, and continue to have, of the curriculum subject. These debates contribute to the inertia evident in the implementation of RE curriculum reforms. A consciousness of the history of RE enables curriculum contestations to be contextualised and understood, and, thereby, provides important insights which can be applied to ongoing and future debates and developments.
This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article whose final and definitive form, the Version of Record, has been published in the Journal of Beliefs and Values, September 2011. Available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/ or DOI: 10.1080/13617672.2011.600823
Vol. 32, Issue 2, pp. 247 - 262