Cornwall Council has told its schools that pagan beliefs, which include witchcraft, druidism and the worship of ancient gods such as Thor, should be taught alongside Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the Daily Mail reported.
The requirements are spelled out in an agreed syllabus drawn up by Cornwall’s RE advisory group.
It says that from the age of five, children should begin learning about standing stones, such as Stonehenge. At the age of 11, pupils can begin exploring “modern paganism and its importance for many in Cornwall.”
The syllabus adds that areas of study should include “the importance of pre-Christian sites for modern pagans.”
An accompanying guide says that pupils should “understand the basic beliefs” of paganism and suggests children could discuss the difficulties a practising pagan pupil might face in school.
But the council’s initiative has dismayed some Christian campaigners, who are alarmed that a religion once regarded as a fringe eccentricity is increasingly gaining official recognition.
Critics point out that according to the council’s own estimates there are only between 600 and 750 pagans in Cornwall out of a total population of 537,400.
“Religious education is squeezed already – there’s barely enough time to cover Christianity and the other major religions,” Mike Judge, Christian Institute spokesman, said.
“Introducing paganism is just faddish and has more to do with the political correctness of teachers than the educational needs of children,” he said.
However, Neil Burden, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said that the move would give children “access to the broad spectrum of religious beliefs.”
Cornwall Council’s initiative follows the 2010 decision by the Charity Commission to recognise druidism as a religion.