Humanist Supplement

A Humanist Supplement to the Derbyshire Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education

From September 2017 schools in Derbyshire will receive the Humanist Supplement to the Agreed Syllabus for RE, offering teachers a Humanist perspective, and resources for teaching and learning for 27 units, covering EYFS, and Key Stages 1, 2 and 3.

The Derbyshire SACRE approved the Humanist Supplement on 3rd July 2017, and discussed the possibility of offering training for teachers on the new resource.

Derby SACRE will consider the Humanist Supplement at the next meeting.

The Introduction to the Humanist Supplement is copied below.


The Aims and Purpose of RE

The Derbyshire Agreed Syllabus 2014-19 gives the Principal Aim of RE as:

“to enable pupils to participate in an on-going search for wisdom, through exploring questions raised by human experience and answers offered by the religions and beliefs of the people of Derbyshire and the wider community, so as to promote their personal development. “

The Principal Aim is met through two attainment targets throughout: learning about religion and belief; and learning from religion and belief. The inclusion of non-religious beliefs such as Humanism is crucial to fulfilling these aims for all children.

In order to learn from religion and belief, children with no religion need to be included in RE teaching by having their views discussed and respected. This will enable them to develop their sense of identity and belonging. By exploring Humanist answers to challenging questions about meaning, right and wrong and what it means to be human, non-religious children will have an opportunity for personal reflection and moral development.

It is equally important for children of all religions and none to develop knowledge and understanding about non-religious world views, in order to develop respect for and sensitivity to others, and to flourish individually within their communities and as citizens in a pluralistic society.

According to the 2011 census one third of people in Derbyshire do not have a religion, in line with national figures. More recent data such as a 2015 YouGov poll found that around half of people are not religious, and this figure is significantly higher amongst young people. It is therefore crucial that non-religious young people are given the same opportunity to explore questions of identity and morality in a way that is meaningful for them.

Overview of the Humanist Supplement

The purpose of the Humanist Supplement is to provide teachers with information and guidance to enable them to include the study of ‘World Views’ and ‘Beliefs’ within RE. The Humanist Supplement gives information on Humanist perspectives for 27 of the units in the Agreed Syllabus, and is provided in sections for each Key Stage.

In each Support Unit, there is a general statement of the Humanist answer to the Key Question, then a detailed response is provided. Both the statement and the responses contain all the relevant Humanist information needed for each Unit of Study.

Finally, a number of detailed teaching and learning suggestions are provided for each Unit of Study to explore the Humanist perspective, and these are all written at the appropriate age level. They include detailed references to material developed by Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) in its invaluable free online resource for teachers

Background to the Humanist Supplement

The supplement has been adapted from the Manchester Humanist Supplement to accompany the Derbyshire Agreed Syllabus by Ellen Johnson, Humanist representative to the Derbyshire SACRE. The content has not been substantially altered.

The Manchester Humanist Supplement was written to accompany the Agreed Syllabus, ‘Religious Literacy for All’, adopted from 2016 by a consortium of five SACREs in Greater Manchester (Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Tameside and Trafford).

The Humanist Supplement has been written by Robin Grinter, Humanist Representative to the Manchester SACRE, and North West Regional Co-ordinator for Humanist school speakers, and in close consultation with Maurice Smith, the retired RE adviser for Tameside. Lat Blaylock, the editor of ‘RE Today’, and Luke Donnellan, Head of Education at Humanists UK, have made invaluable contributions as Assistant Editors.

Free Book ‘What is Humanism?’

From February 2017, a free book has been sent to all Primary and Secondary schools in the UK. A copy of ‘What is Humanism? How do you live a good life without God, and other big questions for kids’ by Michael Rosen and Annmarie Young, can be requested from the Understanding Humanism website.

School Speakers

Humanist school speakers can contribute to teaching and learning in a number of ways:

  • Talk about Humanism and take part in a Q&A in an assembly or in the classroom
  • Share their personal experiences, beliefs, and values and explain what being a humanist means to them
  • Give a humanist perspective on a contemporary debate (e.g. assisted dying, wealth and poverty, prejudice and discrimination)
  • Contribute to a specialist day (i.e. ‘collapsed’ or ‘off timetable’ day) for a whole-year group
  • Provide remote support to pupils when researching a particular topic, project, or investigation
  • Take part in a multi-faith panel dialogue exploring different viewpoints
  • Work directly with teachers by providing specialist information or material

School speakers can be requested from the Understanding Humanism website:

School speakers in Derbyshire can also be requested from:

South Derbyshire and Derby area

Derby Open Centre –

Derbyshire Humanists – email

Buxton and High Peak area

Greater Manchester Humanists –




Religious Visitors in Derbyshire Schools

Schools are attended by pupils from all faiths and none, and evangelising by any particular group is inappropriate in a school setting. This undermines the rights of parents and children, and is contrary to the guidance of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE).


The Matlock Area Schools Trust (MAST) is an inter-denominational trust set up 15 years ago to support people ministering in schools. Representatives from churches in Matlock, Bonsall and Bakewell visit schools in Derbyshire to conduct assemblies and RE lessons in which they teach children about ‘the fundamentals of the Bible’, and the Christian faith.

There is a ten minute presentation on the MAST website which gives an overview of the content of assemblies, and makes clear that the intention of the group is to “promote Gods word to children from all backgrounds”. In the words of the Chair, Martyn Pyne “God has called us to sow the seed, his word, into children’s lives.” It is perfectly clear that the intent is to convert children to Christianity, and promote attendance at churches, the presentation closes with a message for it’s church supporters, “MAST is being run to support your church, we are sowing into young people’s lives, and wherever there is a sowing, there is also a reaping. MAST prays that you as a church may flourish as you reap what has been sown into these young people’s lives.”

Each term the Group visits 75 schools, and reaches around 8000 children. If you wish to know when these assemblies will take place at a particular school, the dates of school visits are published monthly and can be found on the publications section of the website.

National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE)

NATRE have published a document called Voices of Faith and Belief in Schools offering guidance and a code of conduct for visits to schools by religious believers.

The guidance notes that schools are ‘plural communities’ with members of different faith groups including those with non-religious views, and that visitors should “be willing to respect the right of the pupils and adults in the school to hold views that may be different from their own” and “develop ways of speaking to pupils that communicate their open approach, avoiding any hidden agenda to ‘convert’ or proselytise.”

Rights of parents

Parents may not be aware of visits to their child’s school by this group, as schools do not always inform parents.

Guidance from NATRE states that “Parents have the right to know what is happening in school. Parents from different faith backgrounds, different denominations or groups and of no faith may, quite reasonably, be concerned about the religious input their children receive in school, and clarity of information from school to home needs to be maintained all the time”.

Rights of children

MAST visits schools once per term , every six weeks. Where these visits are not balanced by visitors from other faiths, or non-religious visitors such as Humanists, this presents children with a biased view.

Guidance from NATRE also notes the rights of children, stating that “Children have their own integrity too. It is a fundamental principle that religious education work and collective worship experiences should demonstrate respect for the attitude and perspective of each child”.

Legal right to withdraw

Parents have the legal right to withdraw their children from collective worship and Religious Education, however many parents choose not to do this routinely for fear of making their child feel excluded from school activities. However some Derbyshire parents have decided to withdraw their child from the MAST assemblies only, as they are uncomfortable with the nature of these visits.

Operation Christmas Child in Derbyshire

October 2016 – SACRE endorses Aquabox as an alternative to OCC

At its meeting on 17th October 2016, the Derbyshire Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) heard a presentation by Derbyshire charity Aquabox, who distribute emergency supplies including a filter to provide safe drinking water, to refugees and victims of natural disasters. The SACRE agreed to endorse Aquabox to schools as an alternative to OCC.

March 2016 – Update on OCC collections in Derbyshire Schools:

At its meeting on 21st March 2016, the Derbyshire Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) considered the involvement of schools in organising OCC collections, or distributing promotional information.

The SACRE considered objections to OCC summarised in this article published on the Humanist Life blog,  and also a written response from OCC UK.

The SACRE agreed that a communication will be sent to schools to advise them on the religious nature of the scheme.


Operation Christmas Child is a shoebox gift scheme run by Samaritans Purse to deliver christmas gifts to disadvantaged children. The scheme has been widely criticised by non-religious and secular groups including the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society, and by charities and companies such as Oxfam, Save the Children, and The Co-operative Group. The main points of criticism are summarised here, and there are links to some excellent articles below for further information.


Operation Christmas Child is run by Samaritans Purse, US based organisation which takes a very literal view of the bible, including creationism and the existence of Satan and Hell. The shoeboxes are not merely intended to provide a gift to a child in need, but are actively used to proselytise and recruit children to a particular ‘brand’ of fundamentalist Christianity. Children are asked to acknowledge their sin and pledge themselves to God in the leaflet they receive with the box. Children are then recruited to a ‘discipleship program’ called The Greatest Journey which teaches creationism as fact, something not allowed in UK schools. Upon graduation children are given a bible and sent back into their communities to try to convert friends and family as well.

Using gifts or aid in this way as a means to convert vulnerable children whose families may be of different faiths is unethical, and has been criticised by various charities including Oxfam and Save the Children.


Samaritans Purse has contributed financially to the campaign against equal marriage in the US, and it’s CEO Franklin Graham is openly homophobic on social media.

As Derbyshire County Council is a Stonewall Top 100 Employer 2015, and some schools in the county are part of Stonewall’s School Champions programme, it seems counter to the aims of equality and inclusiveness for any schools to be supporting a charity with an openly homophobic agenda.

Information provided by Operation Christmas Child UK

The UK branch of Operation Christmas Child is not honest about the nature of the scheme. Following an investigation by the Charity Commission, boxes from the UK (unlike those from the US) do not contain any religious literature, and OCC UK makes much of this fact in interviews and written material, also highlighting that boxes are checked and any religious items removed.

However this isn’t the full story. The church partners distributing boxes also give children a leaflet, billed in UK promotional material as ‘a booklet of bible stories’. In fact this leaflet begins by explaining the Garden of Eden story, and why Adam and Eve were sinners, the theme of sin recurs heavily throughout. The leaflet ends with a prayer in which children are asked to say “I know I am a sinner, I made wrong choices and did bad things” and are then asked to sign a pledge that they are now”Gods child”. This is not merely ‘bible stories’ but is using the fear of Satan and hell to coerce children into converting.

OCC UK are being dishonest to people donating boxes, by not being upfront about the nature of the literature that children receive, and by downplaying the evangelism and links to US fundamentalists. A Radio 4 piece (from 23.30) from Nov 15 is a good example.

This scheme remains popular with many schools and parents, and seems on the surface to be a way to teach children about giving to those in need. However there are very many ways of doing this, and of giving to charity without allowing your generosity to be misused by fundamentalists.


There are many excellent articles on this subject if you would like further information:

British Humanist Association

Humanistlife blog, October 2014, Why parents shouldn’t support operation christmas child

British Humanist Association – Samaritans Purse

National Secular Society

NSS blog Oct 2012 enticing children to evangelism with toys

NSS blog Nov 2014 operation christmas child

NSS blog Nov 2015 operation christmas child, christian fundamentalism gift wrapped

Homophobia Nov 2015 charity head praises Russia’s anti gay laws Jan 2016 christian charity head declares gay people are the enemy


The Guardian Nov 2003 The evangelicals who like to giftwrap Islamophobia

The Guardian Dec 2014 Evangelical giftwrapping islamophobia marches on

Franklin Graham Nov 2013 the imperialist cult of Franklin Graham Aug 2015 Franklin Graham’s salary raises eyebrows among christian nonprofits


Operation Christmas Child Alert UK website