The Leader agrees to:
Approve the Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) membership arrangements and agree the updated representation numbers on Group (a) including the addition of a Humanist representative.
Reason for the decision
A review of the Group (a) membership of SACRE is timely following the publication of the 2021 Census data, and the recent guidance on representation options made available via the court judgement on non-religious groups’ involvement with SACRE.
Comparison of the 2011 and 2021 Census data would suggest that the existing SACRE membership remains an appropriate reflection of the main denominations and beliefs held in Kent.
Best practice encourages Local Authorities to consider representation from a broad range of groups. Baha’i, although not widely followed in Kent, has had a seat on the SACRE for some time and it is proposed that their seat should remain. Humanism have also requested representation on SACRE and following the recent court judgement updating the legal position and now indicating that non-religious groups are now eligible to sit on SACRE Group (a); it is proposed that a seat be added to SACRE, and that the seat be allocated to a Humanist representative.
It is felt that the addition of a seat would not impact significantly on the ability of SACRE to undertake its duties.
KCC took a decision in 2022 which confirmed that the legislation prohibited the inclusion of non-religious groups on Group (a) of SACRE. The decision included a commitment to review that issue should the legal position change. Court consideration of the previous decision has now resulted in a judgement confirming that humanists are eligible for inclusion on Group (a) – this new proposed decision follows through on the commitment to undertake a review.
SACRE sits as an outside body, with responsibilities relating to advising the local authority and education providers regarding the teaching of religious education. It draws membership from a range of people, with the membership separated into specific sections/groups (with each section having one vote at full meetings of the SACRE).
(a) Christian denominations (other than the Church of England) and other denominations and religions as in the opinion of the Authority reflect the principal religious traditions in Kent. The number of representatives approved under the category shall, so far as is consistent with the efficient discharge of this group’s functions, reflect broadly the proportionate strength of that denomination or religion in the area.
(b) The Church of England
(c) Teacher Associations having regard to local circumstances.
(d) The Local Authority
KCC is responsible for considering the appropriate representation for Group (a) – Christian denominations and other denominations and religions. Such consideration may be given from time to time as the Local Authority deems necessary and in response to specific requests for updates to representation.
Options (other options considered but discarded)
KCC is required to consider the SACRE Membership from time to time and this may be triggered by relevant membership requests.
KCC could have determined that while humanists were now eligible to sit on Group A of SACRE, there was no need to include them to achieve the appropriate Group A representation required under legislation.
KCC could seek to make additional changes to the representation arrangements (which faiths or groups are represented and how many individuals should represent them). Recent Census data did not support any substantive changes.
How the proposed decision supports the Interim Strategic Plan:
Appropriate management and delivery of SACRE business is a statutory requirement that contributes towards effective education in Kent. This overarching education element contributes to economic development and longer-term service demand management through improving outcomes for young people at an early stage.
The decision is necessary to ensure continued compliant organisation of SACRE.
Data Protection implications
No data protection implications arise from the decision.
Decision type: Non-key
Decision status: For Determination
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 07/09/2023
Decision due: Not before 6th Oct 2023 by Leader of the Council
Reason: To allow the required 28 day notice period under Executive Decision arrangements
Lead member: Leader of the Council
Lead director: Benjamin Watts
Department: Education & Young People's Services
Contact: Joel Cook, Democratic Services Manager Email: email@example.com Tel: 03000 416892.
Has any public consultation been undertaken or is any planned?
Cabinet Committee consultation planned:
The proposed decision will be considered by the Children, Young People and Education Cabinet Committee in November 2023
Which Divisions / Local Members are particularly affected: http://kent590w3:9070/mgFindMember.asp
All – County Wide arrangement.
Have views been sought from local Members?
Financial implications: None
Legal implications: The membership arrangements for SACREs is set out in section 390 of the Education Act 1996. Interpretation of the legislation has now been updated substantively by the 2023 court case. This decision, representing fresh consideration of Kent SACRE's membership arrangements, in light of the recent census data and the court case, evidences compliance with revised legal position and prior commitment to review the membership should the legal position change.
Equalities implications: No negative equality implications arise from the decision.