THE decade-long increase in the popularity of GCSE religious studies continued this summer.
A five-per-cent rise on last year’s entries increased the number of those taking the exam to 283,756 — almost matching the 6.5-per-cent increase in A-level candidates announced last week (News, 21 August). Almost 30 per cent of entrants were awarded A* or A grades.
The further increase in entrants choosing RS demonstrated the high regard for the subject, the Church of England’s chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, said. But “The decision not to include the new, rigorous religious-studies course as an EBacc option makes it more difficult for students to choose the subject they know equips them for life in the modern world.”
The rise in full-course entries was offset by a further sharp decline in the number of pupils entering for the RS short-course exams, which lead to the award of a half GCSE.
The fact that short-course awards — most of which relate to RS — no longer count towards Department for Education performance tables has adversely affected schools’ support for religious education at Key Stage 4, leading figures in RE say.
This year’s 86,679 entries for short-course examinations in England were down 26.8 per cent on the 2014 numbers.
The decline of interest in the short course suggested that fewer schools were fulfilling their legal agreement to provide RE for 14- to 16-year-olds, a spokesman for the Religious Education Council said this week.
'RS is popular, but not for religious reasons' - Letter