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Open letter calls on Government for improvement in RE in schools

17 May 2024

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THE Bank of England is among 30 organisations that have signed an open letter calling on the Government to improve the teaching of religious education (RE) in schools.

The letter, written by Lord Bilimoria and published on Tuesday, expresses concern with the standard of RE in England. “RE teachers are some of the most passionate in the country,” he writes, “but a lack of funding and proper support for the subject has led the outgoing Chief Inspector of Education to describe teaching of the subject as ‘generally of a poor quality’.”

A recent Ofsted report on RE, which observed the curriculum and teaching practices in a variety of schools in England, concluded that the provision was too simplistic and ill-informed, and did not prepare students to “live in a complex world” (News, 19 April).

A 2022 study of schools data by the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) found that up to 500 secondary schools in the country were not fulfilling their statutory obligation to teach RE (News, 20 May 2022).

Lord Bilimoria is a former vice-president of the Confederation of Business and Industry, and Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. He writes: “Over the last decade the subject has evolved to provide a much-needed place in the classroom for young people to engage with the complexity of modern belief, avoid misconceptions, and leave school ready to work with people around the world from all walks of life.”

His letter, which is supported, among other organisations, by universities, schools, and the RC diocese of Westminster, concludes with “a call to action for employers and business leaders, a chance for them to stand by students who have expressed an interest in a high-quality education in religion and worldviews as preparation for the future workplace”.

As part of the “REady for work” campaign, Young Ambassadors for RE have submitted videos about how the subject is helping them to prepare for the workplace. Aiyra, a Year 9 student from Okehampton College, said that the subject “plays a massive role in people’s lives, concerning understanding each other, cultures different from our own, and beliefs we aren’t exposed to on a regular basis. I think it’s a good preparation for any career.”

Deborah Weston, a NATRE research officer, said of the letter that it was “encouraging to see major employers recognise the value of high-quality RE. It’s clear there is a real desire to provide young people with an academic and personally enriching education in religious and non-religious worldviews that will help young people take their place in society and the world of work.”

Other signatories include the Peter Jones Foundation, University College London, Bangor University, Edwardian Hotels London, Coop Academy, Bellevue Law, The King’s School, Christian Education, and the Catholic Union of Great Britain.

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