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World News

Number of students taking RS A Level drops after 20 year climb

by Sophie Drew

The number of students choosing Religious Studies as an A Level subject has fallen, following warnings of a lack of teachers.

Overall, the proportion of top marks handed to A-level students across Britain is down on last year, but still above levels before the pandemic.

More than a quarter of pupils have been given either an A or A* - down by around nine percent compared with 12-months ago.

However, the figure is still higher than 2019, when over a third for full marks.

Overall, the number of students entering for an A Level exam in England and Wales has increased by two per cent in 2023.

However, the number of students entering for an RS A Level exam has fallen by 3.5 per cent in England and 24 per cent in Wales.

Prior to the sudden drop, Religious Studies had been the fastest growing A Level subject, between 2003 and 2022.

The fall follows the launch of a campaign to recruit a new generation of RE teachers to the subject, with the Religious Education Council of England and Wales warning that a shortage in specialist teachers means some schools, particularly in the Midlands and North East, are now struggling to offer the subject at A level.

A level Religious Studies is the humanity most likely to be taken by disadvantaged pupils. Research by the FFT Education Datalab has found that this group is twice as likely to choose to study A level Religious Studies than their peers.

Sarah Lane Cawte, Chair of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), said: “These results show the really concerning impact that teacher retention and recruitment is having on the subject.

“For the last two decades, A level Religious Studies has been a success story with growing numbers of entries and impressive results that have opened up a world of opportunity, particularly for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them with access to top universities and careers in law, journalism and teaching.

“That legacy is now threatened. A teacher training bursary and a fair allocation of resources to the subject would help reverse this trend and ensure RE continues to thrive as it has done for the last decades."

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