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RE evidence can't be ignored, says MPs

It's claimed many schoolchildren are being taught Religious Education by under-qualified teachers. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on RE says more than half of the subject's teachers don't have a relevent post A-level qualification. The MPs are calling for more support and funding to improve the situation and are calling on the Department for Education to:

- Revise the methods by which it gathers information about the number of RE teachers in secondary schools and present full time equivalent totals, and use these as the basis of the department's calculation of teacher training targets

- Introduce a system which requires all secondary teachers to receive some training in any subject they teach

- Restore bursaries for RE trainees

- Restore the inclusion of results for the GCSE short course for RE to school league table points

- Require academies to use the local agreed syllabus

- Publish the outcomes of the Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education's monitoring of teacher supply

- Ensure that SACREs have the resources to carry out their statutory responsibilities

Chair of the group, Stephen Lloyd MP, told Premier's News Hour the Government can't ignore the findings of its report.

The Church of England supports the findings. Its Chief Education Officer, Revd Jan Ainsworth said:

"The APPG Report provides strong evidence for our continuing concern that RE is being downgraded as part of the curriculum.

"We have spoken out strongly about this over the past couple of years, particularly since RE appeared to lose its status in the original development of the Ebacc. 

"We are concerned about the provision and quality of RE in all schools.

"The report shows that initial teacher training in RE is inadequate and the provision of in-service training is drying up. 

"We are pleased that Church of England diocesan education teams are still offering Continuing Professional Development which is open to all schools, but that can't make up for the lack of support across the subject as a whole. "RE is about religious literacy for all, growing understanding of the importance of faith, especially in this country, built on Christian values, to the lives of individuals and communities.

"It is has never been more important than in today's multi-faith society. We hope the Report is a wake up call for the Department for Education."

Phoebe Thompson is the Deputy Editor of Youthwork magazine and also works as an RE tutor. She tells Premier the subject needs properly qualified teachers:

Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said:

"The report makes devastating reading because RE plays a vital role in widening children's general knowledge of major influences in the world, helping them relate to their neighbours and improving citizenship.

"The Accord Coalition has long warned that omitting RE from the EBacc was effectively downgrading it and telling head teachers to give it less priority, and we are now seeing results of that omission.

"The report paints a disturbing picture of RE as a malnourished subject on the slide, and it makes a strong case for much better resourcing of training and career professional development for teachers, and better monitoring of the quality of the provision of RE in schools."

In response the Department for Education said:

"There are now 1,000 more RE teachers than there were in November 2010 and the number of RE teacher training places for 2013 has actually increased by 99 from last year. 

"We are also attracting more higher quality graduates to teach RE, with the number of trainee teachers gaining a 2:1 or higher increasing year on year since 2008."

Meanwhile schools across the country are facing a summer of disruption after teachers in England and Wales announced a series of strikes. The walkouts - announced by the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT - are over pay, pensions and workload. The rolling programme of walkouts will begin in the North West on the 27th June.

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