The examination board OCR has announced draft proposals for a new "philosophy and ethics" course to cover lessons on issues such as euthanasia and abortion.
"Pupils taking the course will be encouraged to examine topics from the standpoint of Humanism – the rejection of religion in favour of reason and a belief in human potential – as well as the major faiths," says this PA story.
"The course includes units looking at different beliefs on topics such as the nature of good and evil, medical ethics and death and the afterlife."
OCR's Mara Bogdanovic is quoted as saying, "Humanism is growing rapidly within the UK and it is a belief system held by increasing numbers of citizens. As part of OCR's philosophy and ethics GCSE it provides an excellent contrasting opinion for students to debate alongside the religious views that have always been included."
George Broadhead, former long-serving secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association and current secretary of the Pink Triangle Trust, warmly welcomed the move. "This is not only very good news for Humanists", he told me today, "but for LGBT people as well.
"In sharp contrast to the hostility shown by many religions, including Christianity and Islam, to gay sexual relationships, modern Humanism accepts these as an integral part of sexual diversity and it fully supports the ongoing campaign for full legal equality, including same-sex marriage. The fact that the Humanist outlook will be taught as part of RE should help to counter religious prejudice and discrimination," he added.
The move has also been welcomed by the British Humanist Association, whose education director, Andrew Copson, tells the PA, "It's great that OCR has brought Humanism within the scope of their GCSE. We hope that it will make the subject of religious studies more engaging for all young people and more relevant to the whole of our diverse society."
The new courses are set to be taught from September 2009.