Agenda and minutes

North Yorkshire Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) - Tuesday, 19th September, 2023 5.00 pm

Venue: County Hall, Northallerton

No. Item


Election of Chair and Vice-Chair


The meeting was introduced by Owen Griffiths, in his role of Clerk, to introduce the election of the Chair and the Vice-Chair. The meeting was not quorate however, owing to no attendance from the Church of England representatives, and the item had to be deferred to the next meeting.


Cllr Jabbour stepped in as Chair for the meeting as both Cllr Baker and Sarah Beveridge, the present Chair and Vice-Chair, had both sent apologies.


Welcome and Announcements


The Chair welcomed people to the meeting. The Chair particularly welcomed Hayden Cohen, as the new representative for Judaism, and Julie Pattison, as the new Principal Education Adviser.


Apologies for Absence


Apologies were received by Councillor Alyson Baker, Tom Clayton, David Haddock, Councillor Janet Jefferson, Gil Simpson, Philippa Smith, Lee Talbot, and Councillor Annabel Wilkinson.


Minutes of the Meeting held on 20 June pdf icon PDF 293 KB


The minutes of the last meeting could not be agreed as a true account of the previous meeting as the meeting was not quorate.


Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of interest.


Public Participation

Members of the public may ask questions or make statements at this meeting if they have given notice to Prtick Duffy or Owen Griffiths of Democratic and Scrutiny Services (contact details below)  and supplied the text by midday on Thursday 14 September 2023, three working days before the day of the meeting.  Each speaker should limit themselves to 3 minutes on any item.  Members of the public who have given notice will be invited to speak:-

·          at this point in the meeting if their questions/statements relate to matters which are not otherwise on the Agenda (subject to an overall time limit of 30 minutes);

·          when the relevant Agenda item is being considered if they wish to speak on a matter which is on the Agenda for this meeting.

If you are exercising your right to speak at this meeting, but do not wish to be recorded, please inform the Chair who will instruct anyone who may be taking a recording to cease while you speak.



There were no public questions.


Member Presentation by Professor John Adams pdf icon PDF 613 KB


Considered a presentation by Professor John Adams, a Humanist Faith Group Representative. By way of background, the Committee’s Development Plan for 2022/2024 contains the action: Implement a programme of Member presentations at each SACRE meeting with a focus on Member work/community involvement and how it links into SACRE. This presentation was the third of these.


Professor Adams set out to share more about Humanism and his background within it. He did this in three sections:


1.     How he got involved within it.

2.     What Humanism is.

3.     Questions and Discussion.


1)     Professor Adams shared that many Humanists first become involved within the organisation through attending ceremonies, and that was also how he became involved, through a non-religious funeral for his father. That involvement within the organisation then became greater after retiring, and it was shared that he was now the Treasurer of the organisation.


Professor Adams then said that the organisation had more than 100,000 members and read a list of famous names who were part of it. Alongside ceremonies it was shown that the Humanists also offer pastoral care, apostate support for those fleeing religious, and working on human rights campaigns.


2)     Professor Adams then provided insight to what Humanism actually is. Although the roots of Humanism can be seen in ancient times, with both Socrates and Erasmus being historical advocates, the modern foundation of the term is simply the conviction that it is possible to lead a good life of liberal values without superstition. This was explained in three points:


A)    The denial of the Supernatural. The world can be explained through reason and evidence. Humans, as a species, can explain the world that they live in, and these explanations continue to expand.

B)    Religion is culturally determined. Professor Adams shared that humanists would say that religion is a social construct, that mirrors the culture that it exists within in. As a result, the number of gods across anthropological time has been estimated to be around 10,000.

C)    Therefore, because of the first two points, moral precepts come from society. Reality is human and is socially constructed within the framework of what has been taught and understood.


3)     Professor Adams provided room for questions to be asked.

Nasr Moussa Emam said that it was very interesting and asked for the presentation to be shared in full. Hayden Cohen also said that it was very interesting and said that he looked forward to many future discissions over the meetings to come.


The Chair thanked Professor Adams for his presentation and said it would be good for these to continue. Hayden Cohen said that he could do one at the next meeting.




North Yorkshire Council SACRE Draft Annual Report 2022-23 pdf icon PDF 1 MB


Considered a report by the Senior Education Adviser, Heather Russell, on the draft annual report 2022-23.


Questions were asked about:


-        How the data has been presented.

-        Collective worship and whether it would be worth noting that it has been discussed at previous SACRE meetings.

-        Whether Jewish people might be uncomfortable with how the questions have been framed in the religion and faith section, particularly with its ethno-religious element. In response to this, the Principal Education Adviser (Monitoring) said that the framing of the data for those questions was dependent on who answered the data and was reflective of that.




Update from Professional Religious Education Adviser pdf icon PDF 557 KB


Considered a report by the Professional Religious Education Adviser, Olivia Seymour, informing Members of work undertaken since the last meeting, together with local and national updates regarding Religious Education. The report provided details on the following issues:


-        SACRE Newsletter – the timeline of this had to be expanded so that the Agreed Syllabus Conference could help to inform the content.

-        Data – The national picture from exam results was provided to the group, with the local datasets forthcoming.

-        The Department for Education have been asked to address the shortage of people training to become RE teachers.





Update from the Local Authority pdf icon PDF 401 KB


For the benefit of those who had not been at the Agreed Syllabus Conference meeting, ahead of this meeting, the Chair provided a quick summary. More volunteers will be needed for the launch report that will be provided to educational leaders. The Professional Religious Education Adviser shared that the launch of the Agreed Syllabus Conference will be the 14 June 2024 and it would be good for as many Members to attend as possible.


After this, a report was considered by the Principal Education Adviser (Monitoring) which updated Members on the work undertaken by the Local Authority since the last meeting.


The main point highlighted was that the methodology of how Ofsted inspections are analysed has been reconfigured towards a greater emphasis on personal development. These figures went back to March to provide a larger pool of data.






Work Programme pdf icon PDF 333 KB


The Principal Democratic Services Scrutiny Officer gave an update on the work programme for SACRE. The programme provided in the agenda provided the relevant official items and members can suggest future items that could be considered.


SACRE Self-Assessment Tool- Report of the Working Party pdf icon PDF 278 KB


The Principal Democratic Services Scrutiny Officer, Patrick Duffy, provided information on the SACRE self-assessment toolkit. The tool kit is based on 5 criteria and allows for the SACRE to evaluate its performance and seek to improve its performance.


The first of these assessments took place on 5 September and was undertaken by the Officers and Professor John Adams, Cllr Alyson Baker, and Abhijeet Kulkarni. The focus of the first working party was around the second aim:

“How effectively does the SACRE, in partnership with the LA, evaluate standards and the quality of provision for RE in schools? How effective are the strategies to improve standards and the quality of provision?”


The feedback from the working party was that the SACRE was doing well in many of the areas highlighted by the second aim but there were areas of improvement, particularly between SACRE itself and schools.


Patrick Duffy then provided room for members who were not present at the working party to provide comment. He also shared two ways in which the committee could proceed with the other 4 criteria:


-        Continue in the format of the last working party, drawing upon volunteers for each individual criterion, or;

-        Can use part of the SACRE Committee meeting to discuss one criterion and split into different groups to do this.





Any Other Items

Any other items which the Chair agrees should be considered as a matter of urgency because of special circumstances


Hayden Cohen told the committee that on 27 January, the Harrogate Synagogue would be holding an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. All of the committee members are invited but he asked that people let him know in advance so that the number of people going could be accounted for.


There being no further items of business, the meeting ended at 6:08 pm.


Dates of Next Meetings

12 December

9 April

Date in June TBC


The dates of the next meetings were provided to the group.

These would be:


-        12 December 2023 at 4pm.

-        9 April 2024 at 4pm.