Schoolchildren will be able to skip religious education lessons by providing their teachers with a note – written by their parents – according to a new initiative by the Education and Religious Affairs Ministry. A circular distributed to primary and secondary schools says children can miss RE without their parents having to provide a reason, as is now the case. The only requirement will be a written note – from a parent, unless the pupil is over 18. Sources say the reason usually noted in exemption letters is that the children are not Christian. But experts say many parents and children had avoided submitting such notes in the past as they did not want to identify themselves as non-Christian. The fact that declaring the reason is no longer compulsory – as per European Union personal data protection laws – will increase absences, experts say. The move is expected to provoke the ire of the Orthodox Church, which did not comment yesterday.