A DRIVE to strengthen religious education in Church of England
schools, announced this week, will include more central support, a
rethink of the curriculum, and better subject training for
teachers. The move follows a review, commissioned by the Board of
Education, and led by a leading OFSTED inspector, of RE in 30
secondary and 30 primary church schools, which found significant
under-performance at primary level.
The review team rated RE good or better in 70 per cent of
Anglican secondary schools and academies visited, but found the
subject in need of significant improvement in more than half the
primaries. While the standard of RE in most of the secondary
schools visited was much higher than the average for non-church
schools, the level in church primaries was comparable with those
without a religious designation.
A report based on the review published this week, Making a
Difference, says, however, that in almost all the schools
visited RE was regarded as important by school leaders and
governors. "Where RE was struggling in primary schools, a core
reason was that, despite the high priority given to the subject,
this was not being translated into practice." The report notes "a
lack of clarity about what constitutes high quality, and how to
lead and manage the subject effectively".
In contrast, the leadership of RE was good in most church
secondary schools, and the subject received strong support from
senior staff. Moreover, in church secondary schools, RE had been
protected from the "negative changes in education policy, such as
its exclusion from the EBacc".
But the report notes that, although governors are increasingly
responsible for school standards, there was little evidence of
their monitoring and supporting RE. And, surprisingly, few of the
schools visited, both secondary and primary, were aware of the
Statement of Entitlement to RE drawn up by the key Anglican schools
organisation, the National Society.
The C of E's chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders,
welcomed the review team's conclusion that RE was exceptionally
well taught in church secondary schools. He said, however: "We need
to take decisive steps to improve the subject in our primary
schools, and this report provides essential data. But the
Government has a major role to play, too: the review has shown the
importance of policies that ensure the subject is valued for the
vital part it plays in society."
Chief education officer backs proposals
Speaking during a visit to a C of E primary in Moss
Side, Manchester, recently named by the Times Educational
Supplement as primary school of the year, the chief education
officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, strongly supported proposals for
improving social mobility through education, set out in a ten-point
Mobility Manifesto published by the Sutton
He said: "Much of what the Trust recommends is already
happening in our schools. A project, 'Unlocking Gifts', supported
by the Archbishop of Canterbury, will be under way shortly, aimed
at finding the most effective interventions to improve the
performance of disadvantaged groups of pupils."
But Mr Gender raised doubts about the wisdom of
allocating school places by lottery, a system supported by just
under half of people who took part in a Sutton Trust commissioned
"Parents put a lot of thought into choosing the right
school for their children," he said, "and their involvement is a
contributing factor to the success of many schools."
Scientists back project to 'debunk myth'
SCIENTISTS from universities in Cambridge, Durham, and Harvard
are among leading academics who are backing a project that seeks to
"debunk the myth" that science and religious faith are
The project, "God and the Big Bang", offers day-conferences for
GCSE and A-level science and religious-studies students to schools
Already piloted in schools in the Manchester area, the scheme is
backed by the diocese of Manchester, the Faraday Institute for
Science and Religion, Christians in Science, and the University of
Reading's Institute of Education. It was launched nationally at an
event at Canon Slade School, Bolton, on Tuesday of last week.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, who read
mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge, said at the
launch: "Science and religious faith are firm companions along the
way as we journey to understand the universe and our place in
The free conferences, which include a presentation by a
scientist with faith, and a hands-on science session, are available
to all schools, whether or not they have a religious
For further information, phone the co-ordinator for "God and the
Big Bang", Stephanie Bryant, on 0161 828 1407.