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Graduates and teachers offered £200 a week to plug Religious Education hole

06 March 2023

The Religious Education Council of England and Wales

An RE lesson Haslingden High School, Lancashire

An RE lesson Haslingden High School, Lancashire

A FRESH attempt to reverse the decline in trained Religious Education teachers has been launched by Culham St Gabriel’s Trust.

The trust, an endowed charitable foundation, supports the professional development of teachers of religion and world-views. Funded by the Gordon Cook Foundation and the Hibbert Trust, the goal of its new campaign, “Beyond the Ordinary”, is to encourage graduates and existing teachers to take specialist training in RE. The recruitment drive was launched at an online event on Monday attended by leaders from education, faith, and community organisations.

Financial support of £200 per week is being offered to candidates while they undertake a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course, which typically runs for eight weeks.

A marketing campaign run in partnership with UCAS will target undergraduates in relevant disciplines (theology and religion, sociology, philosophy, and others). This will sit alongside a wider sponsored social-media campaign, mainly via LinkedIn, targeting jobseekers and career changers with relevant backgrounds; targeted advertising on university job boards; and a media and social-media campaign that will include testimonials from existing RE teachers.

UCAS data from January show that teacher recruitment for all subjects dropped by 22 per cent from 2022. Applicants for RE teacher positions were down by one third from the last recruitment cycle. A chronic lack of government funding has been blamed.

Last May, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education, and RE Today Services said that a spike in AS and GCSE entries ten years ago was tailing off, and blamed the lack of government funding since that time for this trend (News, 20 May 2022).

Their analysis of Ofsted figures showed that A-level RS entries almost doubled from 2003; and since 2010, GCSE entries for the full course had increased by one third. This last figure, however, included a 20-per-cent fall in GCSE entries between 2016 and 2021. During this period, the Government did not spend any money on RE, their review said, compared with the large sums spent on English (£28.5 million), science (£56 million), maths (£154 million), and music (£387 million).

During a Westminster Hall debate in October, MPs and peers expressed concern about the lack of government support for the subject.

Lord Karan Bilimoria said on Monday: “The latest teacher recruitment figures are deeply worrying. Parents are concerned, schools are concerned, and so, too, the young people [who] are missing out.”

It was, he said, a “disservice to a generation of young people ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of belief in Britain and the world beyond. This campaign is about getting the best humanities graduates into the classroom to help them deliver a modern RE curriculum reflective of belief in our society.”

The chief executive of Culham St Gabriel’s Trust, Kathryn Wright, said: “Religious education is an important curriculum subject enabling children and young people to navigate our complex multi-religious, multi-secular society. Everyone has a worldview, and it’s important we prepare young people to become free thinking, critical participants in public discourse, who can make informed judgements about matters of religion or belief, and reflect meaningfully on the big questions in life.

“We are looking for ambitious graduates from a range of humanities and social-science subjects who can deliver an academic and rigorous curriculum aimed at getting young people to think critically about their own beliefs and those of others.”

Teacher-training courses are open to graduates from a range of academic disciplines, with Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses available from schools, universities, or other providers. For more information about applying, visit: cstg.org.uk/campaigns/teacher-recruitment/becoming-a-teacher

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