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Decline in entries for Religious Studies GCSE

02 September 2016


Success: left to right: Frances Hearld, Celia Edwards and Phoebe Delamere celebrate their GCSE results at The Mount School, in York, last week The Mount is a Quaker independent school

Success: left to right: Frances Hearld, Celia Edwards and Phoebe Delamere celebrate their GCSE results at The Mount School, in York, last week T...

MORE than 355,000 16-year-olds in England and Wales gained a GCSE in Religious Studies this summer. At the same time, however, the results showed that the combined total of entrants for the full-course and short-course examinations was four per cent lower than in 2015.

While there was a minimal rise (one per cent) in entries for the full-course RS, the numbers taking the short course fell by 17.7 per cent. Since 2010, short-course numbers have declined by 75 per cent.

The contraction in short-course entries is almost certainly due to the Government’s decision to end in England the system that allowed schools to add short-course qual­i­fica­tions — which counted as half a GCSE — to their overall examina­tions tally, a move that came into effect in the school year 2013-14. Religious Studies, however, was the only subject significantly affected, because it was the only subject with a substantial take-up of the short-course option, mainly used by schools to make the most of the compulsory class-time given over to Religious Education.

Religious-education specialists say that the latest figures confirm their belief that, since the devaluing of the short-course GCSE, many more non-church schools and aca­­demies are failing to meet their obligation to provide RE for older pupils. In 2014, the number of schools that had no GCSE RS entries was 1197 — 268 fewer than in 2010. Moreover, research by the National Association of Teachers of RE, published in January this year, found that 30 per cent of com­­munity schools and 40 per cent of academies without a religious des­igna­tion failed to provide RE for 14- to 16-year-olds.

The chief executive of the Rel­igious Education Council of Eng­land and Wales, Rudolf Eliott Lock­hart, said that the decline in short course take-up was troubling.

Good results. Schools with religious foundations scored high in this year’s A-level and GCSE exam­ina­tions. League tables com­­piled by The Daily Telegraph list­ed Wilson’s School, Surrey, and St Olave’s, Orpington, as among the top scorers at A level. The top 50 compre­hensives includ­ed Lady Mar­garet School, west London; Bishop Stop­ford, Kettering; Grey­­­coat, West­­­minster; The Green School, Hilling­don; the Blue Coat School, Oldham; and Bishop Luffa, Chichester.

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