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Pritchard: ‘RE fight goes on’

03 May 2013

THE declining status of religious education in secondary schools, together with government reforms, are hitting the training of RE teachers, researchers from Bristol University have said, in a paper for Culham St Gabriel's Trust, published this month.

RE teacher-training specialists face a double bind: specialist courses have been cut or are closing, and training is moving from universities to schools, say the authors, Janet Orchard and Hugo Whately.

At the same time, the exclusion of RE from the Government's list of priority subjects has led to fewer jobs for trained RE teachers. This means that the subject is often handed over to non-specialists. "It is these non-specialist teachers who may be training the next generation of RE teachers rather than university-trained specialists," the authors warn.

Their primary purpose in the paper is to set out a model for the preparation of teachers, and particularly teachers of RE. But they warn that, without a systematic revision of training and courses for serving teachers, "poor standards of teaching and learning [in RE] will continue to be an issue."

The director of Culham St Gabriel's, Dr Mark Chater, said that he hoped that the Department for Education would meet the challenges outlined in the paper.

This was backed up by the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, who chairs the C of E Board of Education. Speaking at an education conference in London on Tuesday, he said that RE had lost so much ground in so short a time - including the closure of eight university courses - that some feared that it was irrecoverable.

But it had also gained allies, including a support group of MPs, said Bishop Pritchard. "The fight goes on," he told the conference.

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