From Rae Hancock
Sir, - I read with interest your item "Teachers 'not ordinary'
says campaign" (News, 2
April), in which Margaret Holness reports on initiatives to
recruit more trainee RE teachers.
From inside the classroom, however, I would say that the problem
is wider than the report suggests. The biggest challenge to
enthusing young people and recruiting high-quality RE teachers is
how we talk about and value the subject itself.
RE, especially at GCSE and A level, is still reeling from the
blows dealt by Gove's EBacc. In one fell swoop, he devalued the
subject both as a valid choice of qualification and as a vital part
of a comprehensive education that prepares young people for an
Furthermore, there are conflicting ideas of what constitutes a
well-qualified RE teacher. Based on the quality of trainees passing
through my faculty over the years, too many Initial Teacher
Training (ITT) providers appear to be selecting based on a
candidate's having a theology degree rather than his or her drive,
enthusiasm, and aptitude to teach.
Finally, there is a worrying popular narrative that dumps the
responsibility for preventing religious extremism, grooming, and
FGM and for delivering quality Sex and Relationship Education (SRE)
and Personal, Social, and Health Education (PSHE) firmly at the
door of teachers.
In reality, this actually falls mainly on RE teachers. I
wholeheartedly believe that my subject is an ideal place for
tackling these vital issues. Knowing, however, that they will have
virtually no post-PGCE training or support to deliver these
lessons, and an hour and a half a week to do it in, and that they
will still hear that they are failing young people, I can fully
understand why someone would think twice about becoming an RE
Secondary RE teacher and Farmington Fellow
Wolfson College,Oxford OX2 6UD