A NEW religious curriculum is set to be given to all schools in Southend in a bid to give children a more “multicultural” education.

Southend Council bosses say the new syllabus will introduce children to the “diversity of faiths” around the world and will include more in-depth teaching of Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism, which is required by law.

It has been unveiled just days after Essex’s other unitary authority, in Thurrock, revealed parents have been withdrawing children from lessons over objections to the teaching of Islam but a Southend Council spokesman said there have been no such issues in the area.

Helen Boyd, Southend Council cabinet member for children and learning, said: “The syllabus supports Southend’s teachers in exploring, developing and fostering a greater understanding of religion and belief in their students.

“This will enable them to have a greater and deeper appreciation as we continue to face future challenges in the 21st century within this culturally diverse borough.

“Through this syllabus, pupils will have the chance to gain an increasingly sophisticated understanding and express their developing ideas about the nature of religions, beliefs and world views.”

A spokesman for the authority added: “Diversity in religion and faiths around the world was also a key focus of the last syllabus, but the law requires that an agreed syllabus for RE is updated every five years.

“The previous RE syllabus was an excellent syllabus, but the world has moved on since then, particularly an increasing interest in more diversity in religion and non-religious world views.

“This agreed syllabus requires that all pupils learn from Christianity in each Key stage, as well as Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Judaism. Furthermore, non-religious world views are also explored.”

Government guidelines state lessons in other faiths will help to address “the prejudices brought about by a shallow knowledge of world religions”.