1. What is a SACRE?
(For a full and detailed explanation of the functions of SACRE, please see Religious education guidance in English schools 2010. Your local Standing Advisory Council on RE (SACRE) is a useful resource for developing RE and is there to support schools individually and across the whole Local Authority. The SACRE consists of four groups representing the local area. These are:
- A. Christian denominations and other faiths
- B. The Anglican Church
- C. Teacher associations
- D. The Local Authority
A SACRE is a statutory body that each LA must set up and support in order to help monitor:
- the standards, quality of teaching and provision for RE in local schools;
- the effectiveness of the locally Agreed Syllabus for RE;
- the provision and quality of collective worship in local schools.
SACREs offer advice to LAs, and through the LA to schools, on matters to do with RE, teaching and learning in RE and appropriate resources to use. It is the SACRE which, every five years, establishes an Agreed Syllabus Conference (ASC) to review the Locally Agreed Syllabus.
In practice, this often is the same groups of representatives as on the SACRE itself, but not always. It is through the SACRE and the ASC that the local determination of RE is implemented and supported. By working in partnership with the SACRE, schools collectively and individually are in a much better position to provide quality RE for the pupils or students. Similarly, this partnership will help SACREs to understand the needs of the schools and what it can do to help in the provision of a quality Agreed Syllabus.
2. How can SACRE help me?
SACREs can help in a number of ways, depending on how well supported and resourced they are by the Local Authority.
- It can provide support, help and advice on issues to do with the Local Agreed Syllabus;
- It can help identify people to come in to the school to talk about faith;
- It can advise on and provide links with local places of worship and other places of interest for schools to visit;
- Strong partnership between schools and SACRE in terms of monitoring RE, will enable SACREs to identify what support the LA should give schools to improve the quality of RE. A tool to help in this is the RE Self-Evaluation Form that will soon be available;
- SACREs can be a good vehicle for celebrating success disseminating effective practice in schools on matters of RE teaching and resources. Again, this is dependent on a strong partnership between schools and the SACRE and on effective two-way communication;
- Being subject leader or co-ordinator for RE can be a lonely task and SACRE can provide a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen and a voice of encouragement. Obviously, as SACRE is made up of volunteers, it cannot be expected to be a 24/7 call-centre! However, a letter to the Chair, or a phone call/e-mail to one of the teacher representatives, whilst not necessarily a magic wand to solve all your problems, can provide an opportunity for closer contact with the SACRE, specific support and the opportunity for SACRE to communicate issues to the LA.
- SACREs are places where inter-faith dialogue takes place in an education context. If you want to develop interfaith dialogue with your pupils and/or parents SACREs will often be keen to support and maybe get involved. Indeed, it is a mutual benefit because SACREs more and more are looking at involving children and young people in their work and this can only be done in and through schools.
3. A final word
A SACRE’s effectiveness is dependent on the support and resource it receives from its LA. It can be a vibrant and proactive partner for ensuring that pupils and students receive their entitlement to quality RE. Sometimes it is inadequately resourced and as a consequence is not able to support or advise schools.
However, schools can raise with the LA the need for an effective and well-supported SACRE and in this way help strengthen a useful partnership that will help you in your role as leader or teacher of RE. SACREs have to meet in public: why not invite your SACRE to meet in your school, and give a talk to them about the RE that you provide? Strengthening partnerships is going to be vital if we are going to focus on quality RE; the partnership between school and SACRE has tremendous potential in this endeavour.
Useful information and advice about and for SACREs can be found at the National Association of SACREs (NASACRE) website: http://www.nasacre.org.uk/ Whilst this is not directed at schools, you can get contacts and information that will help you to work with your local SACRE.
Of particular interest to you will be the youth projects funded by the Westhill Trust and on the theme of interfaith dialogue. These can be accessed at http://www.nasacre.org.uk/projects.html and will provide you with information and ideas on how you can contribute to Community Cohesion using RE in a whole-school context.