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Biblical Literacy (Children)

Volume 582: debated on Thursday 12 June 2014

It is important to remind the House that the Education Act 1944 made religious education a compulsory subject in schools. I do not believe it is possible in England to properly teach religious education without ensuring that children have a proper understanding of Bible narratives.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we should see it not only as religious education but as part of our heritage and citizenship in this country, and that the stories of Noah’s ark, Adam and Eve and even the nativity should be part of that citizenship education? Is he worried about the recent poll that showed the low level of such knowledge among children and their parents?

I entirely agree. It would be very difficult, for example, for an A-level student to understand the work of T. S. Eliot without any knowledge of the Bible narratives. There is a responsibility on schools to teach religious education, and one would hope and anticipate that they would teach the Bible and Bible narratives as part of that. Families do that, as, of course, do the churches through Sunday schools.

Further to those comments on biblical literacy, will my right hon. Friend welcome the Heart 4 Harlow and Harlow credit save initiative, which provide help for financial affairs, particularly beating the loan sharks? When he is next in the area, will he visit Heart 4 Harlow, the faith community and the credit save initiative to see what they are doing?

Order. I would describe that as attempted ingenuity. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to shoehorn into the last question on the Order Paper that which he would have asked if he had been called on the previous question, but, because I am in a generous mood, let us hear Sir Tony.

I always welcome opportunities to visit Harlow and to support my hon. Friend, who is such an excellent constituency Member of Parliament.