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A-level Religious Studies results prompt call for government support

by Tola Mbakwe

Organisations have renewed their calls for a national plan to support Religious Studies in schools.

The number of students taking an A-level in Religious Studies in England and Wales has fallen by 447, despite an increase of 6.1 per cent last year.

This year's 2.7 per cent decrease comes after a two decade period in which RS has had one of the fastest growth rates for A-levels in the humanities, beating Law, Geography and History in a similar time period. 

However, the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) and the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) have warned this period of growth is now under threat after a five year funding gap that has impacted current and future young people taking the subject. 

Father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley, reiterated his call for a national plan, a proposal he first announced after chairing a parliamentary roundtable on the subject's future in March, saying:  "We must not let down young people by continuing to starve the subject of funding and leadership. Schools and colleges need a National Plan that sets out a modern and relevant curriculum for education in religion and in the world's faiths and cultures. Generations of students should understand spiritual development and interfaith understanding that is necessary to contribute fully within modern British society."

Ben Wood, assistant chair of the NATRE, told Premier a key component of the plan would be support for training more RS teachers.

He said: "There are unfortunately too many examples of students having to study for GCSE and A level courses without having well qualified teachers to support them in doing that," he said. 

"And the kinds of questions we're dealing with in this subject, the kinds of questions that arise from the philosophical, the ethical, the theological debates we consider, do require a lot of expertise".

He added: "We need that support to make sure that those who are training to be teachers are well supported with bursaries. And that those who are teachers have the opportunity to keep developing their expertise, their subject knowledge, so that they are really in a good place to help their students to do well."

This year there were 45.5 percent more RS A level entries than in 2003.

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