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Secondary-school RE: the challenges the subject faces since Gove

10 April 2015


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 uncertain future.

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 teacher.

Rae Hancock

Secondary RE teacher and Farmington Fellow

Wolfson College,Oxford OX2 6UD

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