These resources have been designed to support SACREs in undertaking their work and developing their practice.


Legal frameworks links and advice

Circular 1/94: This guidance is for local-authority-maintained schools on providing a daily act of collective worship.

Religious Education in English Schools: Non-statutory guidance, DCSF 2010: Advice often quotes The Non-Statutory Guidance for RE (January 2010 – ‘The Guidance’) which provides links to the legislation relating to religious education and SACREs and interpretation of that legislation.


Managing your SACRE

SACRE chair: A document which looks at the appointment of a SACRE chair, the roles and tasks.

SACRE officers: A document which looks at the roles and responsibilities of SACRE officers.

Constitution: A document providing advice as to what a SACRE constitution should contain.

Invitation to new members: This brief document provides potential or new SACRE members with a brief overview of the work of SACRE and its responsibilities.

Guidance from DfE on Humanist Representation: A recent judgement has been made concerning the position of Humanists on Group A. In the case of Bowen v Kent County Council Justice Constable clarified that applications for Group A membership from persons who represent holders of non-religious beliefs should be considered in the same way as applications from those who represent holders of religious beliefs.

NASACRE have long been asking the DfE to issue guidance to Local Authorities regarding the position of non-religious Worldviews on Group A, and we are pleased that this guidance was issued in August.

In brief, the guidance reiterates that the make-up of a SACRE is a matter for Local Authorities (not SACREs themselves), and that the membership of Group A should ensure that relevant traditions and beliefs in the local authority’s area are appropriately reflected. This representation may include non-religious belief systems where they are analogous to a religious belief.

SACREs may wish to advise their Local Authorities that they should review the constitution of the SACRE following publication of the 2021 Census data and in the light of this guidance.

Code of conduct: A generic code of conduct for SACREs to use or adapt.

SACRE members handbook: This useful reference handbook provides all SACRE members with more detailed guidance for the context of its work. (This is an updated and expanded version of “So You’re Joining Your Local SACRE” for all SACRE members)

Annual Report Template: A template document put together with the DfE’s support to explain what an LA/SACRE should include in its Annual Report.

Analyses of Annual Reports:

2021-22: The analysis of SACRE annual reports for 2022 written by Dr David Hampshire

2020-21: Dr David Hampshire spoke to this report at our AGM back in May, and we are delighted to be able to release it, in partnership with the DfE. The report will give your SACRE an overview of what SACREs around the country have achieved, along with the barriers they have faced. Please share it with your SACRE membership and we hope it will help you in your work as a SACRE. 

FAQ’s related to management of SACREs:

d in the Non-Statutory Guidance for RE published in January 2010 (‘The Guidance’) which breaks down and explains the legal requirements.

Extract from ‘The Guidance’:

The LA must:

  • establish a permanent body called a standing advisory council on religious education (SACRE).5 LAs must appoint representatives to each of four committees, representing respectively:
    • Group A: Christian denominations and such other religions and religious denominations as, in the authority’s opinion, will appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions in the area
    • Group B: the Church of England
    • Group C: teacher associations
    • Group D: the LA

The LA must:

  • ensure that the composition of Group A on a SACRE and Committee A on an ASC is broadly representative of the proportionate strengths of the denominations and religions in the area. The statutory provisions recognise that there will be occasions when the interest of efficiency overrides the requirement for directly proportionate representation
  • take all reasonable steps when appointing a person to be a member of a group on a SACRE or a committee of an ASC to represent any religion, denomination or association, to ensure the person appointed is representative of the religion, denomination or associations in question.

To ensure that people being considered for appointment to SACREs and ASCs are representative, it is normal for LAs to seek nominations from the organisations that have a right of representation on each of the groups or committees. While LAs should seek nominations separately for membership of SACREs and ASCs, as these are separate organisations with different functions, they may request that consideration be given by nominating bodies to nominating the same individuals for membership of both the SACRE and the ASC. There is nothing restricting membership of the LA group (SACRE) or committee (ASC) to elected members. LAs are free to include senior LA officers or others whom they consider can appropriately represent the authority.

5 Section 390, Education Act 1996

Each SACRE therefore must have the four groups described above, no more and no less. The Education Act 1996 Section 390(4) states:

The representative groups required by this subsection are

  • (a) a group of persons to represent such Christian denominations and other religions and denominations of such religions as, in the opinion of the authority, will appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions in the area;
  • (b) except in the case of an area in Wales, a group of persons to represent the Church of England;
  • (c) a group of persons to represent such associations representing teachers as, in the opinion of the authority, ought to be represented, having regard to the circumstances of the area; and
  • (d) a group of persons to represent the authority.

Therefore, individuals cannot apply to become a member of a SACRE, except by responding to a request from their ‘sponsoring body’ for volunteers to represent them.
It is important to go through these formal procedures to find persons who can adequately represent the local communities. This gives the LA confidence in approving the new members and provides SACRE with the LA’s legal advice and structures should a complaint be made against a particular member. The sponsoring bodies can also be approached if any difficulties are encountered with their representatives – for example persistent non-attendance or an inability to work within the SACRE’s code of conduct.

A SACRE can co-opt a person to be a member outside of those described above, but co-optees will not have a vote in meetings, will not belong to any of the 4 groups and will only have a voice in debates at the discretion of the Chair.

As explained in the answer to Question 1, members of SACRE represent particular communities or interest groups in the local authority. Therefore, the LA will need to approach these bodies to ask them to nominate a representative. Sometimes this may be an overarching national body such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews and sometimes a local or regional body such as a Diocesan Board or the Governance section of the local council. In approaching them, the LA needs to explain the role and scope of a SACRE and the need for a representative to work in partnership with others towards fulfilling the SACRE’s legislative purpose.

NASACRE’s Invitation to new members leaflet is a useful document to send to a sponsoring body to help them to have conversations with appropriate potential representatives. The LA may also find it helpful to send a copy of their local SACRE constitution/terms of reference and any code of conduct that the SACRE works within.

Members of SACRE act as channels through which information passes between their nominating groups / sponsoring bodies and the full SACRE, bringing the confidence of their faith / belief / professional group/ local community that they can represent them appropriately. It is also important for them to have a means to pass information from SACRE’s work back to inform and answer queries their wider membership.

To fulfil their legal obligation to establish and support the SACRE, the LA usually delegates the work of approaching sponsoring bodies for a new or replacement member to the SACRE Clerk or the RE Professional working with the SACRE; these will be able to answer questions that may arise about the work of SACRE and its meetings. This membership recruitment role needs to be built into the tasks of the relevant support professional so that it can be adequately reimbursed.

Group D is usually made up of elected members and they represent the local electorate on SACRE. In many SACREs this group of elected members is balanced according to the local council’s political balance with majority and minority party representatives. Some LAs also appoint LA Officers to this Group and /or representatives of Governing bodies. Where they do, it is important that the local authority examines the possibility of conflicts of interest. For example, it would be difficult if an LA Officer voted for something that the local authority would not carry through.

Whilst it is not the role of SACRE to find members, it can make recommendations if members feel that the local authority is overlooking an important community / body that should be represented in one of its groups.

There is more information in NASACRE’s So you’ve become a SACRE member booklet and through our free online training webinar.

The 1996 Education Act Section 390(4) (a) states that Group A comprises:

a group of persons to represent such Christian denominations and other religions and denominations of such religions as, in the opinion of the authority, will appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions in the area.

The LA and SACRE should regularly check that they are up to date with their membership. As SACREs have been a requirement since 1988 they will already have established connections with a range of nominating bodies. However, over time, the religious ‘landscape’ of any area may change; some communities may shrink or move and sometimes new religious groups establish and grow in the local authority’s area.

One way to review the makeup of the local religion and belief context is for the LA to look at national census data. This data only appears every 10 years and can quickly become out of date; also historically it only asks for one type of information where people may identify with a larger tradition and Group A is supposed to be about ‘specific groups’. SACRE members themselves might be best placed to advise the authority on this issue as many have local knowledge of the religious landscape in the area as may a local Inter Faith group. Another source of information could be school data which may give a picture of religious affiliation of parents sending their children to local schools.

It is important that SACRE members are clear that it is the local authority who appoints members to SACRE not the SACRE itself and sometimes it is best for SACREs not to become too involved in this issue. It may of course advise the LA of communities that may deserve a place within their membership.

A change in membership in relation to religions or denominations represented, will usually mean a change in the SACRE’s constitution and SACRE members will be involved in that process.

This question has two dimensions.

The local authority will need to approach sponsoring bodies for a nominee or nominees and then appoint the person(s) nominated if they believe that those person(s) will represent the opinions of the sponsoring body. If the local authority believes that a member ceases to represent their sponsoring body then it can remove them from SACRE and ask for another nominee’ [Education Act 1996: 393(30)].

Group A should represent such Christian denominations and other religions and denominations of such religions as, in the opinion of the authority, will appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions in the area. In order to have an opinion, the local authority will need to do some research as to which groups should be represented in Group A and recognise that these groups might change over time.

The 1996 Act states: Before appointing a person to represent any religion, denomination or associations as a member of the council (SACRE), the authority shall take all reasonable steps to assure themselves that he is representative of the religion, denomination or associations in question. [392(2)] The LA can only know this if it has made a decision about who is nominating the person in question.

Most of the groups that the local authority is looking to for representation for Group A will have formal structures that can be approached. It may be the case, though, that there is a desire to have someone representing a religious tradition that features in the agreed syllabus but where there are few members of that religion locally. In such a case it has been a practice to approach a national body for advice and support, such as the Network of Sikh Organisations. In this way the local authority can have some confidence in the person nominated and that the person has a support network.

A local authority can ask for more than one representative from a sponsoring body if it is felt that that would be appropriate. This allows there to be balance within each group and for groups to reflect local demographics proportionally. So in Group A. If there are some Christian denominations or faiths and beliefs that are demographically more prominent in the area and others less so it might be appropriate for larger communities to have more than one representative to reflect this situation.

A SACRE needs people who can make a positive contribution to its agendas and work; often they will be people who are or have been involved in schools or education. If a concern arises with a member, it is appropriate for the Chair to speak with the person concerned and explore any issues that they have with SACRE’s business and offer training and support. If this is a persistent issue, the local authority might go back to the sponsoring body to ask for a more qualified representative of that particular constituency.

If a new SACRE member is to make a full and significant contribution to SACRE’s work, it is important to offer them opportunities for training. The SACRE Member Handbook provides an easy reference tool for new and experienced members.

The constitution of a SACRE – which organisations should be represented in which group on a SACRE – is a matter for the LA to set out. It is not a matter for SACRE to debate. Individuals cannot apply to be members of SACREs. Legally, it is very clear that Local Authorities constitute SACREs and invite representative organisations to nominate representatives.

As explained in previous answers, the legal constitution of SACREs is set out in the 1996 Education Act Paragraph 390 subsection (4).

The representative groups required by this subsection are

  • (a) a group of persons to represent such Christian denominations and other religions and denominations of such religions as, in the opinion of the authority, will appropriately reflect the principal religious traditions in the area;
  • (b) except in the case of an area in Wales, a group of persons to represent the Church of England;
  • (c) a group of persons to represent such associations representing teachers as, in the opinion of the authority, ought to be represented, having regard to the circumstances of the area; and
  • (d) a group of persons to represent the authority.

Following the Welsh Government’s response to a Judicial Review in Glamorgan (that Humanism is analogous to a religion and should have a place on Group A in Wales) NASACRE has repeatedly asked for a similar clarification from the DfE regarding English SACREs. The DfE has no intention of issuing such guidance, but notes that many SACREs in England do have Humanism represented on group (a).

It is also worth noting that members of groups (c) and (d) may be of any faith, or none. Meetings are open to the public, and many SACREs co-opt representatives (often including Humanist representatives). It is worth remembering that each group has one collective vote.

The number of representatives on each group is decided by the constitution of the individual SACRE as decided by the LA. Subsection (6) states:
The number of representative members appointed to any representative group under subsection (4)(a) to represent each denomination or religion required to be represented shall, so far as consistent with the efficient discharge of the group’s functions, reflect broadly the proportionate strength of that denomination or religion in the area.

Therefore, in deciding whether to appoint a Humanist representative to group (a), the LA must satisfy itself that Humanism is at least ‘analogous’ to a religion.

Section 10, Equality Act 2010 may be useful for the Authority in that it suggests:
Religion means any religion (and a reference to religion includes a reference to a lack of religion”) that is part of the make-up of ‘the principal religious traditions in the area. The number of representatives would need to reflect the strength of Humanism in the area. The authority must also ensure that any person nominated has authority to represent that tradition. The other way that Humanism (or any other secular or sacred worldview) might rightly be included in group (a) is if the LA judged that such representation would be “consistent with the efficient discharge of the group’s functions”.

This argument is used to ensure representation of other faiths which feature in the Agreed Syllabus, where there is little or no representation in that area.

SACRE Group D (the Local Authority) is the simplest to recruit to. Councillors are appointed by the LA. Each political party/group on the Council is entitled to be represented, so things very often change in May after Council elections.

The LA invites each political group – (presumably) via its Leader – to nominate a suitable representative to sit on Group D (as per the SACRE’s Constitution). The SACRE has no say in who those representatives are – the Clerk is simply informed which Councillors have been appointed as SACRE members.

It varies in light of the constitutional arrangement that the SACRE has with its LA. 

Strictly speaking, the LA is responsible for the appointment of SACRE Group representatives who have to be approved by the LA before their appointment.  The SACRE Adviser often introduces a person as a prospective new member, inviting them as a guest to a SACRE meeting.  Then, having introduced themselves, they can be recommended to the LA as a representative of their organisation, willing to sit on the SACRE.

The LA requests nominations from local ‘sponsoring bodies’ representing religious and non-religious worldviews in the community.

We suggest you might read the article from Still Standing report on SACRE members – the section in the report and the appendices. This will give you all the principles to use as well as the practical groups to contact. You can find the report here: Useful documents | NASACRE.

In 2021 Richmond SACRE created a document with NASACRE Exec members as part of the REC’s Still Standing SACRE research.  This serves as a starting point to help SACREs to recruit to Groups A, B, C and D.  You can access this document on:

https://nasacre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Still-Standing-Appendix-6-Richmond-SACRE-action-research-project.pdf

The quorum of a SACRE is determined by an Act of Parliament (Education Act 1996) and SACRE’s own constitution/terms of reference. The Act of Parliament quite clearly states that for a SACRE to be quorate there must be at least one member from each Group present (A, B, C and D). Some SACRE constitutions allow only one member to be present in each group to ensure there is a quorum, in other SACRE constitutions there is a requirement that more than one must be present, particularly from Group A where, for example, it may expect at least one non-Christian member must be present.

A SACRE or Local Authority cannot change the requirements of the 1996 Education Act but it can change its constitution/terms of reference. This change should be done with legal advice from the LA’s legal team and approved by the LA’s constitution processes to ensure legal support should there be a challenge from any outside body or group.

If SACRE is regularly inquorate, the first thing you might want to consider is whether SACRE meetings are held at a time that is good for the majority of members and that meetings are easily accessible. Ask SACRE members what they think would work best and try that. If that doesn’t improve the situation, or if some members simply never turn up, it is the local authority’s responsibility to go back to the sponsoring bodies and ask for a different person to be recommended who can make the commitment to SACRE and its work.

When setting the SACRE’s meeting dates it is best practice to avoid religious festivals, days of obligation or regular council or political group meetings that will instantly disadvantage specific members. Some SACREs also invite members to have nominated substitutes who may attend in place of the main representative.

How the Chair of SACRE is appointed or elected should be set out in SACRE’s constitution / terms of reference. Further detail about the role of the Chair can be found here.

The local authority can appoint the Chair of SACRE, as it is the appointing body according to the 1996 Education Act Section 390. Alternatively many SACREs elect their own Chair.

The procedure, timing and regularity for this should be set out in the Constitution, as should the length of time a Chair can be in place. It is usually helpful if the Chair is an established member of SACRE who has the confidence of the membership and understands the work.

Chairs of SACRE should come from one of the four Groups and should not be a co-opted member of SACRE, a clerk or an Adviser. Co-opted members of SACRE do not have a vote, not even when SACRE is co-opting others to be members of SACRE (see Education Act 1996 Section 390(3)).

In short: yes.

A SACRE’s constitution is broadly determined by the Education Act 1996, Sections 390–399 and Statutory Instrument 1994 Number 1304: The Religious Education (Meetings of Local Conferences and Councils) Regulations 1994.

SACREs need to have constitutions which should conform to the legislation. Our example of a SACRE constitution can be used when reviewing an existing constitution. The local authority’s legal services should have a copy, as they would have worked with SACRE to ensure that it is in place and fit for purpose. If no constitution can be found, then it is important that one is written; a constitution will usually state which bodies are the sponsoring bodies for Groups A, C and D. The constitution should be written by the LA’s legal services as the LA is the appointing body, but SACRE can ask for changes to the constitution if it is no longer fit for purpose, using the legal requirements as a starting point.

Some SACRE constitutions also contain terms of reference. These are added to give clarity to the constitution and are intended to be helpful to non-specialist readers, such as defining what a term might be or what an acronym refers to. Legal services often add terms of reference as part of their work on the constitution. Some also incorporate a code of conduct for SACRE members.

It is also important that SACRE’s constitution is available to SACRE members and members of the public on the local authority’s website.

Freedom of Information Requests about the number of schools with determinations in relation to Collective Worship may come in fairly regularly, so this is not in itself unusual.

The information required should already be in the public domain. SACRE meetings are open to the public and the Minutes should be freely available. In addition, SACREs have a legal obligation to produce an Annual Report (based on the academic year) and this must be submitted to the DfE and should also be sent to the NASACRE for analysis. These reports will include the relevant details of FOIs and where appropriate may feature a table, listing all those schools granted a determination by SACR and the dates when these will expire, not simply those that fall within the last twelve-month period.

It may be that the LA might simply point the person/organisation concerned to the sources mentioned above. However, if the information required by the FOI request is not easily able to be found in one place, it is incumbent upon the LA to provide it in a collected format.

SACREs only have the power to deal with determination requests (or renewals of the same) from schools under local authority control. Academies and Free Schools must apply directly to the DfE. This should be clearly communicated to the person/organisation making the FOI request as it means that SACRE does not hold this information in regard to all the schools that fall within the geographical boundaries of the LA and they will need to know which schools or Academy chains to approach directly.

It is worth setting this in the context of what is expected of the LA and the Clerk and asking the LA for their advice if a Clerk is unavailable.  The local authority has a responsibility to publish the minutes (they are in the public domain) so although notes might be taken by anyone attending the meeting the LA would presumably wish to edit and approve before publication.

Although some SACREs do have external support from consultants (we are not sure about ‘shared’ Clerks) the administrative role and support is often filled from within the LA’s resources.

Here is a link to a document which looks at the roles and responsibilities of SACRE officers: SACRE-officers.pdf (nasacre.org.uk)

It depends on what it says in the SACRE’s constitution.

Most will advise that voting is by majority within each SACRE group. There is no veto… unless the constitution says otherwise.


Other support for SACRE management

Membership Advice: This paper provides a companion piece to the code of conduct and SACRE constitution documents.

Membership Attendance: Do you have representatives on your SACRE who are not attending? NASACRE has drawn together some sample letters from SACREs to create an exemplar letter that you can tailor to your own context, to deal with non-attendance appropriately.

Withdrawal from RE and Collective Worship in one English LA, NASACRE, 2018: This short article summarises the background to and concerns about the right of parents to withdraw their children from Religious Education (RE) and collective worship in English Schools. It reports on the scale of the issue in one English Local Authority (LA) and suggests that it is not a widespread issue in the area of the survey. It recommends that the survey is replicated in other areas so that a national picture can begin to be built up.

School Governors: responsibilities for RE, 2010: Dr Barbara Wintersgill, has produced two briefing papers for governors (one each for primary and secondary) which outline schools’ responsibilities with regard to RE, give an overview of the problems identified by the report and suggest some actions governors might undertake to bring about improvement in their schools.

NASACRE Statement on RE Resources: NASACRE offers advice to SACREs and their schools, in response to frequent mailings from commercial providers and faith and belief communities who claim their resources or products will help schools deliver the relevant locally agreed syllabus.

Still Standing Report, November 2021: Commissioned by the RE Council (REC) funded by Culham St Gabriels (CStG), in partnership with NASACRE.

This report was commissioned by the REC through funding from CStG and in partnership with NASACRE. The report sought to investigate whether recommendations for SACREs contained with the CoRE report would help to develop/change SACREs work for 21st century.

The project was based around a participatory action research method, and each SACRE that took part in the project started with answering two key questions:

1. What is working well within the present SACRE system?

2. What needs changing and how might this be changed for the better?

Each SACRE that took part in the research project tackled a different aspect of present SACRE practice, e.g. training, pedagogy, recruitment and it’s legal framework. The report details each SACREs project and draws recommendations for government, SACREs and NASACRE to consider going forward.

Appendix 1 LAN Guidance and Resources

Appendix 2 SACRE initial questions form

Appendix 3 Barking & Dagenham action research CPD in RE

Appendix 4 Bath & NE Somerset research project

Appendix 5 Pen portrait from Hampshire SACRE

Appendix 6 Richmond SACRE action research project

Executive Summary

FOI Funding Reports: Reports can be found on the Survey page.

20+ ideas for SACREs: This list of 20+ ideas came from the 2014 conference and AGM. SACREs might wish to consider them in their meetings


NASACRE runs a monthly webinar programme to support the development of SACRE members – further details can be found here. Twice annually (in September and June) there is a webinar focused on those new to joining SACRE which is free to all SACREs. Click here to find the recording details of PPT from the last session.
Further training resources are available to Subscriber SACREs.