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UK News

Schools' failure to meet legal requirements on religious education continues to impact A-level entries

As students across the country received their A-level results this week, new figures reveal a drop of 5.1 percent in 2019 and 22.8 percent in 2018, a combined decline of 28.9 percent in two years of students choosing to study RE at A-level.

Reports claim that a number of schools are failing to meet legal requirements on religious education to pupils until the age of 16, which is impacting students choosing the subject to study at a higher level.

The figures are an indication that religious education remains vulnerable and teachers are calling the Government to engage further with the recent recommendations for change from the Commission on Religious Education.

It is a legal requirement for children up until 16 to be taught RE. Former RE teacher and education officer for the Diocese of Exeter, Ed Pawson told Premier how some schools are getting away with not teaching the subject: "Data shows a third of schools are not teaching RE properly, it's a key stage for that GCSE level.

Pawson thinks it's "partly about academisation of schools", but says "we are hopeful that a new Ofsted framework in September will start to show the schools up more, we really want to put more pressure on Ofsted to take more notice when they inspect schools as to whether schools are teaching good RE or not and whether all people are getting their entitlements, to religious education up until aged 16.

The reduction in entries is surprising given that Religious Studies at A-level continues to be a favourable gateway to university and jobs Ed Pawson told Premier: "We want more graduates, we want more RE students to produce more graduates, we want more people studying theology, philosophy, religious studies, biblical studies at degree level, because this is our pool for future teachers.

"It's also important for a society that's more religiously literate, that actually understands and is able to talk about religion and politics, which are the subjects that perhaps we were told, we shouldn't go anywhere near when we were younger, I think that's a very bad piece of advice, actually."

"There are so many competing issues in the curriculum, that I don't blame headteachers for having to make hard choices. However, the legal duty is that every child should know about religion and belief and issues about worldviews and ethics and philosophy.

"It is a valuable subject which really makes young people think carefully about their lives about the position, the place we have in the world. Why we're here, what we're here for, and about the significance and spiritual significance of human beings on this planet."

The Commission on Religious Education published its final report in 2018 making recommendations for changes that have so far only been partially taken up by the Government.

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