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Landmark study reveals school and gov performance on Religious Education failing students

by Tola Mbakwe

There's a call for the UK government to take Religious Education (RE) more seriously.  

A new study has revealed that there has been a 50 per cent increase in A-level entries for RE over the last decade, beating Geography and History.

Despite this, the research carried about by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales  (REC), the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), and RE Today Service found the subject is being underfunded and poorly taught in many schools across England.

The comprehensive review of data comes from a variety of sources, including an Ofsted subject report, public surveys, school workforce data, freedom of information requests, and interviews with teachers and students. It is the biggest 'state of RE' report for five years. They graded the performance of schools, government and the subject itself in a review of five years of data.

The study found that while 46 per cent of academies without a religious character reported an increase in time to teach RE, almost 500 secondary schools are still reporting zero hours of RE provision in Year 11. Meanwhile, around 34 per cent of academies are reporting no timetabled RE.

Fiona Moss, Chief Executive Officer for NATRE and a primary specialist RE Adviser told Premier Christian News that government funding is a major issue.

"There's a teacher training bursary in some subjects, and a bursary for training to be a secondary RE teacher has been removed. That's despite the fact that in nine of the last ten years, we've not met the number of teachers we need to get into training. 

"There's lots of adverts for our RE teachers out there. What happens as a result of that is that RE is a subject that has far more lessons taught by non-specialists, perhaps the PE teacher, or the ICT teacher who's got a few spare lessons on their timetable. So for instance, 25 per cent of lessons of RE are taught by someone in secondary with no post A-level qualification. You compare that to history, it's just 8% in history."

Meanwhile, between  2016-2021, RE  received no central government funding for subject specific projects. During the same period, £387 million was allocated to Music projects, £154 million to Maths projects, £56 million to Science projects, £28.5 million to English projects, and £16 million to Languages projects.

In March, a parliamentary roundtable met to discuss the future of the subject, with the Father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley, calling for a 'National Plan' for the subject.

Responding to the latest data, Sir Peter Bottomley said: "Looking at the performance data on this report card, too many young people are not getting a fair deal when it comes to religious education. In neglecting the subject, we leave a gaping hole in our school curriculum. At its best, RE prepares young people for the ethical, moral and religious debates that influence life in modern Britain and the wider world."

The report card summarising the data review can be accessed here:

Listen to Premier's interview with Fiona Moss here: 

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