A RISE of 50 per cent in applications to train as religious-education teachers has emerged from the latest data from the Universities and Colleges Applications Service (UCAS), writes Margaret Holness, Education Correspondent. By last month, 310 offers had been made for places on postgraduate training courses, compared with 190 at the same time last year, and 200 in 2014.
The Religious Education Council has attributed increased interest in teaching the subject to its recruitment campaign “Beyond the Ordinary”. “When we demonstrate how dynamic and exciting RE teaching can be, people are attracted to the profession,” the Council’s chief executive, Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, said. The campaign also drew attention to the tax-free bursaries of between £4000 and £9000 on offer to postgraduate RE trainees (News, 3 October 2014).
The increase in candidates is almost entirely from those who will graduate this summer; there is a slight decrease in interest among recent graduates, aged 23 to 24, and from mature applicants, whom the REC hoped its campaign would attract.
The teacher-supply expert Professor John Howson said that the encouraging figures were still not high enough to reach this year’s RE recruitment target of 514, set by the Government. Last September, only 386 of the target 450 places were filled. “Nevertheless, the RE organisations have clearly worked hard, and the subject is recruiting more successfully than others,” he said.
Moreover, he went on, teachers of RE were less likely than those of other subjects to contribute to the teacher brain-drain to which the Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wishaw, recently drew attention.
Religious studies is now one of the most popular subjects at GCSE, second only behind English, maths, and science in examination entries. The number of candidates for A-level RS, regarded by the Russell Group of top universities as a facilitating subject for university entrance, has more than doubled since 2003.
Entries for GCSE full-course RS increased by 19 per cent between 2012 and 2014, and are due to rise further this year.