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Religious-studies exams in jeopardy, RE chiefs warn

21 September 2012


Exam reformer: the Education Secretary. Michael Gove, who announced this week the GCSEs would be replaced by the EBacc

Exam reformer: the Education Secretary. Michael Gove, who announced this week the GCSEs would be replaced by the EBacc

EXPERTS in religious education warned that the examination reforms announced this week by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, could inflict further damage on their subject.

The change from GCSE to English Baccalaureate (EBacc) certificates, an­nounced in Parliament on Mon­day, applies only to core subjects, from which religious studies (RS) is cur­rently excluded. A statement from the Religious Education Council, which met on Tuesday to discuss the announce­ment, said: "We foresee a narrowing of the curriculum and the emergence of 'also ran' subjects, including RE [religious edu­cation]."

John Keast, the chairman of the Council and a former government adviser on religious education, said that it was not clear how RE would be examined in the future. "Around 400,000 pupils annually take the full or short-course GCSE in religious studies; so the implications of these changes are immense. They have potential for accelerating the real decline of the subject at Key Stage 4, which is already happening in some schools as a result of the introduction of the EBacc last year."

Mark Chater, the director of the recently amalgamated Culham St Gabriel's Trust, which supports RE, said that he supported the move to a single awarding body, but this should be the case for all subjects. He pointed out that RS was already tested by a single examination without the use of coursework or modules. "We think the RE com­munity should seek urgent clarifica­tion from the Government that GCSE RS will continue until a re­placement is in place. Any successor qualification should include a breadth of religions and beliefs," Dr Chater said.

The RE adviser to the Roman Catholic Education Service (CES), Fr Tim Gardner, said: "Religious education lies at the heart of the curriculum in Catholic schools." The CES would make its views known through the DfE's consultation of Key Stage 4 examination reform, he said.

The RE Council, which includes representatives of educational, church, and other faith organisa­tions; church leaders; and the All Party Parliamentary Group for RE are to step up pressure on the Government to add RS to the hu­manities options in the EBacc. So far, however, Mr Gove has resisted all approaches on the issue.

Religious education has, more­over, been excluded from the government review of the curricu­lum currently taking place. Though the RE Council is conducting its own subject review, the co-operation promised by the former Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, has not materialised, Mr Keast said this week. "We now offer to work with Government on qualifications re­form as it relates to RE," he said.

RE accreditation scheme. From this week, all schools will be able to apply for a new accreditation in religious education, the RE Quality Mark, which recognises good practice in RE. Supported by the RE Council, and funded mainly by the Culham St Gabriel's Trust, the award will be offered at three levels, Gold, Silver, and Bronze, after visits by trained assessors. The scheme's managers, Canon Jane Brooke and Mary Myatt, say that it is open to all schools and academies, and is designed as a mechanism for whole-school improvement. Schools can apply for accreditation through the website www.reqm.org

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