Claims of 'witchcraft lessons' denied by council
A council has defended its decision to include teaching children about paganism in religious education lessons.
Cornwall Council says that from the age of five, children should begin learning about pagan sites like Stonehenge and at the age of 11, pupils can begin exploring "modern paganism and its importance for many in Cornwall".
The council has firmly rebutted claims made in a Sunday newspaper that it is offering "witchcraft lessons" and said paganism was just one option available in a broad curriculum of religious teaching.
Although it has the backing of Christian leaders in Cornwall, the initiative has alarmed some campaigners.
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Mike Judge, spokesman for The Christian Institute, an evangelical pressure group, said: "Religious education is squeezed already – there's barely enough time to cover Christianity and the other major religions.
"Introducing paganism is just faddish and has more to do with the political correctness of teachers than the educational needs of children."
The council confirmed that teaching about paganism has been a religious-education option in the Duchy's schools since a revision of the locally agreed RE syllabus last year.
RE adviser for Cornwall, David Hampshire, said the option was developed in order to develop a "Curriculum Kernewek" (Cornish curriculum). The Duchy has more Neolithic sites than anywhere else in Britain.
"This includes information about Cornwall's many local saints and historic Christian associations, as well as paganism," Mr Hampshire said.
The council said paganism would "not be a major feature" of the curriculum.
The Rev Mike Coles, pastor of Falmouth Evangelical Church and chairman of Cornwall's advisory body for religious education, which monitors the subject locally, said: "It seems right to develop a distinctively Cornish element that included the early Celtic saints, the influence of John Wesley, and the history of Truro Cathedral, as well as the significance of pre-Christian sites."