MORE than one in three non-church secondary schools and
academies are failing to fulfil their legal obligation to provide
religious education to under-16s, and one in four do not offer RE
to 14- to 16-year-olds, new research published this week
The survey by the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE)
reveals a sharp decline in the overall state of their subject at
secondary level. More than half (57 per cent) of the schools
surveyed had no plans to offer the GCSE Short Course in Religious
Studies - formerly the most popular short-course subject; and 12
per cent reported no entries for the Full Course. Many schools that
still offer GCSE RS fail to allocate the recommended teaching time
for the subject.
There has also been a cut in specialist teaching, the survey
finds. One in five non-church schools and academies reported a
reduction in the number of staff qualified to teach RE, and many RE
lessons are taught by teachers who have timetable gaps rather than
expertise in the subject.
The chairman of NATRE, Ed Pawson, said that the findings proved
the admission by the Secretary of State for Education, Michael
Gove, that RE had been an unintended casualty of his education
reforms. "The EBacc has edged RE out of the school curriculum, and
pupils are losing out on valuable education about the world's faith
and belief systems," he said.
Stephen Lloyd MP, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group
investigating RE, said: "When RE is diluted, young people leave
school ill-prepared to respond to different views and beliefs in an
informed and rational way. Ministers and officials must act to
ensure RE is not sidelined."
Question of the week: Should RE be restored as a core
THE Government is being pressed to restore the bursary
for trainee religious education teachers after a steep drop in the
take-up of places in the subject, writes Margaret
Holness. Only 80 per cent of the 390 places for RE specialists
were filled this year, compared with 100 per cent in the two
preceding years. The bursaries, introduced in 2000 to combat the
shortage of qualified teachers of RE, were discontinued in
John Keast, who chairs the RE Council, said that
discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) had begun. "We
hope to see bursaries restored in time for the 2014-15 intake," he
said. The predominantly Anglican Association of Church College
Trusts has also taken up the issue and is to meet DfE officials
early next month, it is understood.
Professor John Howson, a higher-education analyst, has
said that RE is one of several subjects that under-recruited this
year, including Design and Technology where less than half the
available places were filled. New graduates are increasingly
reluctant to add up to £9000 more to their debt when there is no
guarantee of a job at the end of their post-graduate training, he
The unfilled places this year notwithstanding, the
Government has substantially increased RE places for the next
academic year to 672. About half of these have been allocated to
university education departments, with 160 going to universities in
the Cathedral Group.
Only ten undergraduate RE places have been allocated -
all at the secular Edge Hill University. The allocations vary
significantly between Cathedral Group institutions, varying between
22 places at Liverpool Hope University and ten at Bishop
Grosseteste University and at Newman University. Professor Tim
Wheeler, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chester, said that
Chester had filled all 20 RE places this year, and expected to do
so next September, but he said that courses with the lowest
allocations could close.
The remaining RE places for next year are split between
various school-based courses, for which students pay significant
fees, and only 15 RE places are on the Schools Direct salaried
route. The wisdom of locating what amounts to more than 200 RE
training places in schools has been widely criticised because not
all designated training schools have good RE departments. "Many
schools will find it challenging to provide RE expertise,"
Professor Wheeler said.