THE number of trainee religious-education teachers has risen since the Government introduced a bursary for graduates in other subjects to take a subject- knowledge enhancement (SKE) course in RE.
A Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education from the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) has shown that, in 2019-20, a total of 196 students enrolled on an SKE course for RE, for which a bursary of up to £200 a week is available.
Those with degrees in RE wishing to take a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) in the same subject have since 2015-16 been eligible for a bursary, also. For 2020-21, this is £9000.
In 2015, a campaign to recruit more RE teachers, Beyond the Ordinary, was launched by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, with support from NATRE and the Association of University Lecturers in Religion and Education. It drew attention to financial support then available to trainee teachers from other subjects.
Within 12 months of its being rolled out, applications for RE teacher training increased by 35 per cent. The increase of take-up from 2018-19 to 2019-20 was 30 per cent, from 376 to 488. The highest level had been in 2010-11, when 860 students were recruited.
A research officer for NATRE, Deborah Weston, said of the results: “Around 100 theology and religious studies graduates choose to train to become religious-education teachers every year. With a government target for new RE student teachers ranging from 525 to 650 over the past four years, this means we need to recruit at least 80 per cent of trainees from other subject specialisms.
“This additional government funding for SKE courses has opened up an exciting career in RE teaching to people from a broader range of backgrounds. Trainees mainly come from other humanities, such as philosophy, history, or sociology, but we have also seen new recruits from subjects including law, criminology, or politics.”