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Religious Studies holds its own at GCSE level

24 August 2023


Students at Hereford Cathedral School after getting their GCSE results

Students at Hereford Cathedral School after getting their GCSE results

GCSE results were released on Thursday morning with lower average grades than last year, continuing the trend seen in last week’s A-level results (News, 17 August).

Religious Studies (RS) remains a popular choice at GCSE level. A quarter of a million students studied the subject: more than the number who took Business Studies or Art and Design. The number of entries remains stable, despite concerns about the lack of specialist religious-education teachers.

Sarah Lane Cawte, who chairs the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, said: “RS is one of the most popular subjects at GCSE, yet bizarrely it does not receive the corresponding funding and support. Teacher training applications have not recovered since the axing of the bursary in 2021, and no money has been spent on the subject for five years” (News, 18 May 2022).

Katie Freeman, who chairs the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), said that it was a “real travesty” that the subject had not received a “fair allocation of government support”.

The Conservative MP for Worthing West, Sir Peter Bottomley, has championed RE, and, on Thursday, reiterated his call for the Government to devise a plan to safeguard the subject. Such a plan, he said, “would scale out a modern and relevant curriculum in the faiths, cultures, and beliefs of modern Britain taught by highly trained and committed teachers”.

The subject’s importance, Sir Peter suggested, was in the “pivotal part” that it played in “the education of young people across the country, allowing them to understand and academically engage with some of the moral and theological debates that continue to inform our society”.

Overall, the number of GCSE entries receiving top grades in England and Wales fell by four per cent this year. The decline was part of a government plan to bring grades back to pre-pandemic levels, after significantly more top grades in 2020 and 2021.

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