Agenda and minutes

Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education
Wednesday, 14th October, 2015 7.00 pm

Venue: Town Hall Main Road Romford

Contact: Grant Soderberg Tel: 01708 433091  e-mail:

No. Item



To note any substitute members present at the meeting and welcome any new members.


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors, Gillian Ford and Wendy Brice-Thompson, Saddhabhaya, Mr John Smailes, Mr Om Dhir, Mr Sansar Narwal, the Revd Dorothee Büürma and Ms Kirsty Fanning




Candidates for these positions are reminded that it is for a period of two years.


The current Chairman will announce the nominations for the position of Chairman and, if there are two or more members nominated (candidates having confirmed they are willing to stand and the nomination seconded), a ballot will be conducted.  If there is only one candidate and that nomination is seconded and the candidate confirms they are willing to take the role of Chairman for the next two years, the current Chairman will step down and the newly elected Chairman will assume the Chair.


In the event of a vote being required, the clerk will distribute and collect the ballots and count them.  Once a candidate has been declared to have a majority and has confirmed they are willing to hold the position of Chairman for the next two years, the current Chairman will step down and the newly elected Chairman will assume the Chair.


It should be noted that the retiring Chairman is not eligible to stand for this position but the retiring Vice Chairman – if willing to do so – may present themselves as a candidate for the office of Chairman.


The new Chairman will announce the nomination for the position of Vice Chairman (the retiring Chairman is not eligible to stand for this position).  The nominations and – in the event of there being two or more nominations – the voting etc., proceeds as above.



The Chairman announced the election of the new Chairman and the clerk reminded members of the details relating to nominations and that the position was for two years.  Nominations were then invited from those present.


Mrs Coles proposed the current Vice Chairman, Mrs Christine Seymour and this was seconded by Mr Kevin Walsh.  Mrs Seymour said that she was prepared to accept the nomination and the clerk asked for any further nominations.  As there were none and there were no objections, the clerk declared that Mrs Seymour was duly elected as Chairman for the next two year period.


Dr Lester stood down, wishing his successor well in the position and, on assuming the Chair, Mrs Seymour proposed a vote of thanks for the work for and on behalf of SACRE which Dr Lester had contributed not only in his role as Chairman, but for the many years he had been a member.


Mrs Seymour then announced the election of the Vice Chair and Mrs Coles was prevailed upon to consider the role.  On her confirming that she was prepared to stand again as Vice Chair and there being no other candidates and no objections, the clerk confirmed that she was duly appointed and Mrs Coles joined Mrs Seymour on the dais.




To agree as a correct record the minutes of the meeting of SACRE held on 14 July 2015 and to authorise their signature by the Chairman and address any matters arising from them.



The Minutes of the meeting held on 14 July 2015 were agreed and signed by the Chairman.  There were no matters arising from that meeting.




To receive oral and written reports from the Primary and Secondary phase representatives and to comment on them or propose action as necessary.


Primary Update


Ms Sutton, provided members with a review of the information contained within three tables concerning the provisional GCSE Results and GCSE entries in 2015, a summary of non-contributing accredited Level 2 RE courses and Level 3 examinations (appended to these minutes).


She followed this by providing a summary of Continuous Personal Development (CPD) activity saying that in late June a practitioner network had looked at the role of RE in developing tolerance which had attracted 26 participants and was considered a success..


Ms Sutton mentioned that the joint agreed syllabus launch with Redbridge in September had been a tremendous success with 92 participants all told.  The syllabus was now available to all schools via the Havering Education Service portal and schools had been informed of this.  Very positive feedback had been received regarding the launch which, considering the input had been most gratifying.


She stated that at the beginning of October, Hsis had held a follow–up network meeting for primary schools to continue planning and to look in greater depth at specific units.  This had been attended by 23 people.  The next network meeting – which would be led by RE Today - was scheduled for April 2016 and Hsis (the Havering school improvement service) was yet to confirm the focus for this.  In addition, Hsis had also booked a session to look at teaching about Islam with Imran Kotwal in May, as a twilight session.


Ms Sutton then said that she had to report something of a failure with another venture which had been planned.  Hsis had purchased a place on the ‘Energising RE’ weekend conference 3-4 October which had been dedicated to looking at exciting and innovative RE teaching.  This was to have been attended by a lead practitioner from Engayne Teaching School with a view to the information gained being disseminated along with the ideas and materials to Havering schools in a shorter event.


Unfortunately the person had to drop out and, despite strenuous efforts to find a replacement including promoting it through the bulletin, the Hsis newsletter, teaching school publicity and to those who had previously attended networks as a personal email – even offering a day’s pay and all expenses paid - the Local Authority (LA) was completely unable to interest any other teacher in attending.  This was not only very disappointing, but in these days of straitened finances, an expensive loss.  A member observed that it was sad, but indicative of the serious increase in work pressures that teachers were expected to cope with.


Ms Sutton concluded her report by informing members that the LA was promoting Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC)/British Values detailed tracking and audits in schools.  This included the role of RE within its remit.  She added that if any member wanted further information, she was happy to provide it.


Secondary Update


The clerk explained that as Ms Fanning was not present, the Secondary update – and the report concerning national developments – would have to wait until  ...  view the full minutes text for item 37.



If available, to receive a final report on the joint Agreed Syllabus recently launched at CEME on 25 September. 


Miss Munday informed members that she had attended the launch and had stayed for the whole day.  She stated that it had been a success but was sceptical about whether teachers would be in a position to have the whole teaching plan in place for the start in September 2016.  To illustrate this she cited – by way of example – a friend of hers (Infant RE lead) had been tasked with overseeing the implementation of the syllabus across the whole primary Phase (up to year 6) and had no experience of teaching to that age group.


Members joined a more general discussion which widened into the application of the new syllabus, why some schools used different syllabi (Mrs Ellner explained that St. Edwards Primary used the Chelmsford Diocese Syllabus and felt that other faith groups would probably tend to use the resources made available by their own faiths).


Members then considered whether it would be possible for schools across the borough to avail themselves of these faith schools as “resources for understanding” by arranging visits and Ms Sutton and those who were experienced in the teaching profession averred that this was already being undertaken, but that it was not really feasible to move large numbers of children between schools as a matter of course and Ms Sutton observed that Hsis was already using every option it had available to it to encourage that sort of thing, though Ms Sutton added that further suggestions could be aired through the Cluster meetings.


Members suggested that there were many resources available on the internet and “You Tube” was referenced as being a site where some excellent teaching hints could be obtained.


An observation that it was a pity that there was no School Inspector to cover the fostering of better understanding between the faiths and the answer from Ms Sutton was that there were no school inspectors in Havering for even the basics of maths and English, let alone other areas.  The fact was: there were no resources to do this.  Everything was being done on a “need” basis.  Members expressed their concerns about this and Ms Munday reiterated that it all returned to the problem of teachers no longer having the support they needed, being over-worked and placed in impossible work/life situations.  She stated that she was not surprised some 50,000 left the profession in the last year.


Dr Lester stated that a lot of effort had gone into the production of the Syllabus, and the Chairman said that, unlike previous editions of the Syllabus, the collective knowledge and wisdom of SACRE’s members had not been called on, something she felt had been lacking.  She then wondered whether these resources could be made available to Hsis.  Ms Sutton was confident that this could be of help and so the clerk was asked to circulate her contact details to members so that those who wished could contact Hsis to offer their services.  Dr Lester added that both he and the Chair of  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38.



Any member may raise issues previously notified to either the Chairman or the Clerk (unless the issue relates to a matter arising from the meeting itself or is of an urgent nature, when the Chairman will determine whether to allow it or not).


The Chairman asked if there was anything members wished to raise as nothing had been notified ahead of the meeting as being urgent.  Dr Lester drew members’ attention to the leaflet concerning the Week of Prayer for World Peace and the Havering Inter-Faith Forum but that was all. 


The Chairman asked where the hard copy versions of the new Syllabus were which the clerk had intimated would be provided to SACRE members after the launch.  The clerk replied that he had originally been under the impression that hard copies were to be available, but having pursued this with Mrs Weston he had been informed that the new syllabus was designed to be web-based and because of the prohibitive cost of printing in colour, this was not an option being considered.


He added that so far he had only been asked to provide two copies (which Ms Sutton said she had produced, just not brought with her), but this increased to five during the course of the discussion and Ms Sutton volunteered to bring the number up to 10 which the clerk could keep to be sent out as requested.  The offer was gratefully received.




Currently the date of the Spring Term meeting has yet to be confirmed, but two provisional dates are proposed: Thursday 3rd or Tuesday 8th March 2016



The Chairman observed that recently the dates for proposed meetings had differed from those agreed.  The clerk apologised for this, explain that SACRE had been obliged to move due to the re-scheduling of a Cabinet meeting and, as there had been no other committee rooms large enough to accommodate SACRE, he had been obliged to look for the nearest option.


The clerk then offered members the option of two dates and a preference was expressed for Tuesday 3 March 2016.  The clerk added that he had provisionally booked the Chamber but even so could not be absolutely certain that SACRE might not be moved.  At this, Rabbi Sunderland stated that the Synagogue was free that evening and that SACRE was most welcome to use its facilities.  He was thanked for this kind offer and the clerk stated that if it was not possible to hold the meeting at the Town Hall, it would take place at the Synagogue so the date was now definite.