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Funding for RE support is a postcode lottery, FOI request reveals

21 May 2021

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TEACHERS and students of religious education (RE) are subject to a postcode lottery when it comes to local-authority support for their subject, a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.

When asked how much funding and support local authorities gave to their Standing Advisory Councils on RE (SACREs), 25 local authorities out of the 136 who responded said that they had transferred no funds at all to their SACRE. The majority — 92 per cent — said that they did not get enough of the Central Services School Block (CSSB) funding, which comes from the Government, to carry out their statutory duties.

The FOI request was made by the National Association of Standing Advisory Councils on RE (NASACRE) in England, which recommends that at least two per cent of the government budget to schools should be passed to SACREs, and yet just 12 local authorities achieved this figure.

The Government has backed the NASACRE advice and the two-per-cent figure. The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said that the Department for Education “would investigate any complaint that statutory responsibilities were not being delivered to ensure that the LA took any necessary remedial action”.

In addition, half of all local authorities had not given any money from central funds to support training and collective worship in schools.

SACREs are independent bodies that advise local authorities on the provision of RE, including revising the RE syllabus, which has to be reviewed every five years. Owing to the lack of proper funding for them, however, seven local authorities told the NASACRE, in response to their FOI request, that their RE syllabus was more than six years old. One of them had not reviewed its syllabus since 2010.

Paul Smalley, executive assistant of NASACRE and one of the authors of the report on SACRE funding, which sets out the findings, said: “There needs to be a levelling up of funding. It is astonishing that so many LAs are quite brazen in their admissions that they do not support the work of SACREs — which is a statutory duty. All LAs should commit to meeting the national recommendation of spending two per cent of their CSSB on SACRE business.”

Linda Rudge, who chairs NASACRE, said: “We look forward to working with chairs of SACREs, partner RE associations, politicians, and officials at the DfE on the next steps to achieving some parity of provision in terms of the financial and other resources.

“These are urgently needed to enable statutory bodies to achieve their obligations, operate efficiently within local democracy, and to promote excellent religious education and collective worship in schools.”

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