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,
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.