Voluntary Sector: Bid to improve image of RE

Agency briefed to help promote more positive press coverage of religious education.

The Religious Education Council for England and Wales (REC) is hoping to improve press coverage of religious education by getting teachers to come up with stories for local newspapers.

The REC, a not-for-profit organisation that helps to promote and support religious education (RE) in schools, believes negative articles on religious issues in the media are damaging the perception of the subject.

To combat this, it will provide a media toolkit to primary and secondary school teachers to increase positive stories in the local press.

It has briefed 3:nine Communications to develop the package, which will explain how to spot potential stories such as class visits to places of worship, how to write a press release and how to work with photographers to get a good image.

'This is designed to inspire teachers,' said 3:nine MD Colin Hallmark. 'We want to take away the fear factor.'

The toolkit aims to help teachers work more effectively with local authorities and school press officers.

The agency won the brief following a three-way pitch organised through the CIPR.

REC chairman Brian Gates said: 'There is a lot of negative coverage in the media regarding religion and religious issues, and this carries over to RE. Our aim is to work with teachers and others who are in a position to challenge and change this by communicating the positive benefits of good RE.'

He said such positive benefits included exposing ignorance, increasing mutual understanding and promoting community cohesion.

John Keast, deputy chairman of the REC and an adviser to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), said: 'There are stereotypes in the media that RE is about teaching people to become vicars or Bible-bashing. It is about much more than that. The number of people getting qualifications in the subject has increased dramatically, but you don't hear about that in the media.'

The REC secured £1m funding over three years from the DCSF at the beginning of the year to develop and implement a national RE Action Plan. The REC is made up of 50 professional associations, and faith and belief communities including the Buddhist Society, the Islamic Cultural Centre and Methodist Church House.

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