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Faith schools to teach other religions

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LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) British faith schools, criticised last year for failing to give pupils an understanding of other religions, are to broaden their teaching.

Under an agreement published today, they are to teach pupils about other religions as well as their own in an effort to broaden understanding and combat prejudice.

Leaders of the Church of England, Catholic, Methodist, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Buddhist faiths signed the agreement.

Last year David Bell, then head of the education standards watchdog Ofsted, who said he thought faith schools -- which make up around one third of Britain's 22,000 schools -- were failing to promote an understanding of other religions.

In a joint statement with the Department of Education, the religious leaders said they were fully committed to developing the religious education curriculum.

''We believe that schools with a religious designation should teach not only their own faith but also an awareness of the tenets of other faiths,'' the statement said.

It said religious education developed pupils' understanding of other world views and helped to combat prejudice.

It also created respect for and sensitivity to others with different faiths and beliefs.

Although many faith schools do teach some aspects of other religions, there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

The agreement means the schools will follow the non-statutory National Framework on Religious Education which states that Christianity should be taught along with the five principal religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

REUTERS SHR VC1738

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