A HIGH-POWERED Independent Commission on Religious Education is to undertake a root-and-branch investigation of religious education over two years. Commissioned by the Religious Education Council, every aspect of RE, including the legal, educational, and policy frameworks, is to be reviewed.
The Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd John Hall, is to chair the commission of 14 educational, legal, and religious experts. It is expected to report by 2018, making recommendations for a complete overhaul of RE in schools and colleges.
Dean Hall, a former Chief Education Officer for the Church of England, said that RE was an important but often underrated part of the school curriculum: “Religion is a powerful force for good, and the perversion of it a powerful force for evil. If our society is to benefit from the good and avoid the evil, it is vital that children develop religious literacy, and come to understand religious perceptions and motivations.”
The establishment of the commission comes at a critical time for RE. A series of recent reports have expressed concern about the subject. Plans for full academisation of the schools system have further severe implications for the subject and for the part played by local advisory councils, an RE Council statement said this week. “The ultimate aim is to improve the quality and rigour of RE and its capacity to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain.”
Religious Education remains the subject with the lowest proportion of specialist teachers. Last year, 56 per cent of those teaching the subject had no post-A-level qualification. The latest trainee recruitment figures suggest a slight potential improvement in the situation. At the end of June, provisional offers of places for trainee RE specialists had been made to 460 applicants, compared with 350 at the same time last year. It seems unlikely, however, that, at this late stage of the recruitment process, the Government’s target of 514 trainees will be reached.