THE number of schools flouting Religious Education (RE) laws has risen, research by the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) suggests.
Responses from more than 600 schools across England to a survey by NATRE found that half of academies without a religious character, and 40 per cent of community schools, do not meet their legal or contractual requirements to deliver RE at Key Stage 4. State schools must teach RE to all pupils, whether they are studying it at GCSE-level or not.
It also found that 64 per cent of students in Year 11, and 59 per cent in Year 10, receive no religious education at Key Stage 4 where RE is an optional subject, even though it is a legal requirement. Three-quarters of the schools reported that some RE was taught by teachers who spent most of their timetable teaching another subject, and one in three (32 per cent) reported that some parents withdraw pupils from RE.
The chair of NATRE, Ben Wood, said: “There are so many schools, of every type, in every part of the country that provide their pupils with excellent RE as part of a broad and balanced curriculum. This makes it all the more unacceptable to hear of schools where pupils are not given the access to the religious literacy they need and deserve to support them in our increasingly pluralistic society.
“RE is a vital part of the curriculum, giving pupils the chance to learn about the people in the world around them, and providing them with the opportunity to discuss and debate important questions. To deny pupils this chance means pupils are missing a crucial part of their learning, something every pupil in every school is entitled to receive.”
NATRE urged the Government to establish a National Plan for RE as recommended by the Commission on Religious Education last September (News, 14 September 2018) The Commission proposed a radical overhaul of the subject to reflect better the diversity of modern society. It said that RE teaching in too many schools “was not good enough to prepare pupils adequately for the religious and belief diversity they will encounter, nor to support them to engage deeply with the questions raised by the study of worldviews”.