Religion in Schools

Religion in Schools

Learning Lessons from Wales

By Russell Sandberg

Anthem Studies in Law Reform

Questions of how religion operates within schools are controversial and divisive. This book explores radical changes that are being made in Wales and the lessons that can be learnt. 

Paperback, 250 Pages


July 2022

£20.99, $24.95

  • About This Book
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  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

To what extent should religion be taught in classrooms? Should lessons also cover non-religious beliefs? Should the teaching of religion be compulsory or should it be a matter of choice by the parents or the child? Should faith schools be allowed to teach their religious beliefs? Should religious worship be compulsory for all pupils?

Questions of how religion operates within schools prove controversial and divisive. This book explores radical changes that are being made in Wales and the lessons that can be learnt. The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021 introduces a new curriculum for Wales and makes the teaching of religion, values and ethics compulsory for all. As the name of the new subject suggests, the study of non-religious beliefs will now be explicitly included and groups such as humanists will play a role in the writing of the curriculum. 

The 2021 Act will mean that the law on the teaching of religion in Wales will differ from England for the first time. In England, the rules developed in the 1940s continue to apply: these require religious education that must ‘reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian’ and daily religious worship which must be ‘wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character’ subject to a parental opt out. Critics have pointed out that these laws are outmoded in today’s multicultural and largely secular society and that many schools fail to comply with them. This book will explore what can be learnt from developments in Wales to shape the law in England. It will explore reform suggestions in England and the Welsh law, potential shortcomings of the Welsh legislation and areas that the 2021 Act leaves untouched, namely the rules on religious worship. The book is written by a leading authority on the interaction of law and religion whose work fed into Welsh parliament debates on the 2021 Act.


‘Russell Sandberg has provided a crisp, clean, concise, and cogent expert’s guide to the impressive new experiment in religion and education afoot in Wales. Not only Welsh and UK readers, but anyone interested in the vexed questions of the roles and rights of religion in the classroom and curriculum need to read this learned text.’ – John Witte, Jr., Director, Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University, USA.

‘This short and very well-written book probes big issues: among them the implications of devolution for educational reform and - in more detail - the recent changes in the teaching of religion in the Welsh school system. I recommend it warmly.’ – Grace Davie, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Exeter, UK.

‘In the aftermath of 9/11, the need for appropriate religious education has become a priority around the world. By analyzing the new Welsh system, this book addresses issues that are debated in many countries and outlines a model that can be replicated throughout Europe.’ – Silvio Ferrari, Emeritus Professor of Canon Law, University of Milan, Italy.

‘This book aims to illuminate an area where there has often been more heat than light, and examines the new law with insight and nuance. It is a valuable contribution to current scholarship.’ – Helen Hall, Senior Lecturer and Associate Director of the Centre for Rights and Justice, Nottingham Trent University, UK.

‘This engaging book charts how the teaching of religion is being transformed in Welsh schools and explores how other nations might learn from these changes. Essential reading for anyone interested in religion, law, and education.’ – Anna Strhan, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of York, UK.

Author Information

Russell Sandberg is Professor of Law at Cardiff University.


Anthem Studies in Law Reform

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; 1. Introduction; Part One RELIGIOUS EDUCATION AND WORSHIP UNDER ENGLISH LAW; 2. The Position before the Butler Act; 3. The Butler Act; 4. The Position after the Butler Act; 5. The Current Law; 6. The Human Rights Context; Part Two THE NEW WELSH LAW ON RELIGION VALUES AND ETHICS; 7. The New Curriculum for Wales; 8. The Consultation Phase; 9. The Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill; 10. The Passage of the Bill; 11. The New Law; 12. Conclusion; Bibliography; Index


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