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.