MORE than 239,000 16-year-olds took the full-course GCSE
examinations in Religious Studies (RS) this summer - a ten-per-cent
rise on last year's figures. The percentage rise was the highest
among the humanities subjects.
In contrast, there was a dramatic drop of 60,000 (28 per cent)
in entries for the popular RS short course that leads to a
half-GCSE award. Entries had previously risen every year for almost
two decades. Religious-education experts blame the Government's
discounting of the short-course award as a measure of school
performance - leading some schools to encourage only full-course
entries - and also the introduction of the EBacc. The latter, they
argue, is leading to the replacement of RE teachers by specialists
in EBacc subjects.
The chairman of the RE Council, John Keast, said that the
decline in the short course was a serious concern. "It shows fewer
teenagers are being given the chance to experience good-quality
Religious studies is the only short course that has ever
attracted substantial interest. It was widely supported by schools,
because it led to an an examination award for a subject that they
are legally obliged to teach, and to which they are expected to
allocate five per cent of curriculum time.
Teenagers liked it, Ed Pawson, who chairs the National
Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), said
"because it was often the only area of the curriculum that created
opportunities for the expression of their thoughtful enquiries
In a survey of 18 to 25-year-olds last year, many of the
respondents said that RE was responsible for their most memorable
Decline in this wider area of religious education is what most
worries RE specialists and church leaders. Mr Pawson said: "RE is a
core part of Britain's education system, but, as this year's
results show, while the need for religious literacy has never been
greater, it is becoming harder for schools to provide good RE."
As part of its campaign to restore the status of RE, central to
which is a national-curriculum-style review of the subject due to
start next month, the RE Council will ask the Government to
reinstate the short-course award's contribution to
Teachers' association welcomes RS results.
NATRE has welcomed this month's A-level results, which showed a
slight rise in the number of RS entrants, and one in four awarded
A* or A grades. One fifth of successful applicants to read PPE at
Oxford had RS as one of their A-level subects, a spokesman