Voice Representative - SACRE/ H&S

What is a SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education)?

by Rosemary Stokes (Voice Chairman Emeritus) and Razza Askari (SACRE representative)

A Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education is a statutory body which must be set up by all local authorities in England and Wales. 

Each SACRE has four groups, one of which is comprised of teacher representatives.  Most local authorities ask teacher unions to nominate someone for this group and the Voice Volunteers' Committee would be glad to hear of people who might be willing to fill this role, if only for a short time. 

Being on committees of this sort helps to raise Voice’s profile, both with the general public and also with local authorities. It is also a great way to meet people from other backgrounds who are not in education but offer an equally useful point of view on RE.

This is about Religious Education and acts of collective worship in schools, so it is not necessary, therefore, for a teacher representative to belong to a religious group.  Indeed, it is probably quite healthy to have a mix of teachers which represents the mix in schools.

Many teachers have found that being on their local SACRE has offered valuable development opportunities and has opened up a network of support, especially for those who do teach RE, whether at primary or secondary level. 

You will also have the chance to contribute to community cohesion and to explain to keen amateurs what actually goes on in schools and what education, rather thanindoctrination or religious nurturing,is about.  This is particularly significant when SACREs are writing guidance for schools and parents on specific issues.  

More importantly, you will be able to influence your local authority and contribute to the locally agreed syllabus.

As a Voice representative on your SACRE you will not be expected to represent a constituency.  Rather, you will be speaking for a community – in this case teachers of RE and those who lead acts of collective worship.  In a sense, you will be speaking in both directions, both on behalf of teachers to SACRE and to teachers when you have the opportunity to report on SACRE’s work.  You act as a bridge between the SACRE and the people you represent.  It is useful to have a network of contacts but you do not have to consult outside of SACRE meetings.

The main requirement is that you can put across a realistic teacher’s point of view to lay people who are representing either a religious group or the local authority. This is an important element when formulating a  new policy or creating a RE resource to be used in a classroom.

People outside education are often not fully aware of the day to day pressures that a teacher faces in a classroom.  All SACREs aspire to high standards in RE and collective worship and you will be able to help them achieve this for your authority.

It is useful, though not essential, to have a sound knowledge of the relevant law and to be aware of the variety of activities in which a SACRE may engage.  There is a training CD available from the National Association of SACREs which covers everything you will need and which should be available from your local authority when you join your local SACRE


There are already many members of Voice who are serving on their local SACRE and who will be more than happy to answer any questions you have.  Contact Voice HQ on 01332 372 337 or email vickycope@voicetheunion.org.uk and we'll put you in touch. 


Further information:

National Association of SACREs


Health and Safety Representatives

The Role

Health and Safety Representatives have a key role to play in workplace health and safety.  They work with employers on health and safety by representing their colleagues’ health and safety interests.  The function of the Health and Safety Representative is set out in the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 and there are Codes of Practice and Guidance covering all four home countries.

Health and Safety Representatives are elected by their colleagues.  A Health and Safety Representative is not appointed by the employer or in a school by the head teacher or governing body.  It is a different role from the employer’s Health and Safety Officer who will have health and safety duties in his/her job description.

A Voice Health and Safety Representative has the right to:

  • investigate potential and actual hazards and dangerous occurrences;
  • investigate colleagues’ complaints;
  • present colleagues’ concerns to management;
  • carry out workplace inspections;
  • as much time off with pay as is necessary to carry out those functions and reasonable facilities and assistance;
  • paid time off for training as long as the training is necessary and reasonable;
  • receive information relevant to any matter that might impact upon health, safety and welfare of the people that s/he represents.

As a Voice Health and Safety Representative you will be well placed to help develop and encourage a positive health and safety culture at the workplace.  This might include setting up a safety committee to give advice to management in respect of health and safety matters.

Voice Support

We give support to our Health and Safety Representatives by:

  • arranging training sessions at Derby head office to keep representatives up to date with health and safety developments;
  • disseminating health and safety information, legislative developments and other relevant issues in the education sector through our dedicated newsletter;
  • responding to enquiries and providing appropriate advice and assistance to representatives on matters of concern;
  • encouraging joint working with other unions and employers to improve health and safety performance at their workplace.