UK faces a religious education crisis
Ed Pawson, Chairman of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) believes that RE ‘has never been under greater threat’ and that the Government must take urgent action to address a shortage of RE teachers.
According to the BBC, Pawson – who is also RE Associate Adviser for an outfit called Babcock LDP, which promotes “religious education and collective worship” – is to tell NATRE’s inaugural annual conference that developing young people’s “religious literacy” would help to make them less vulnerable to radicalisation. He believes:
Good religious education has never been more needed.
In his speech to NATRE’, Pawson is expected to ask “what hope” there is for students to receive a strong religious education when so few of those teaching the subject are qualified to do so.
Pawson will cite official figures that show 54 percent of secondary RE teachers have no post-A-level qualification in a related subject.
This compares very unfavourably with history, where a mere 27 percent of teachers lack post-A-level expertise.
Primary pupils are even worse served, he will add, with a NATRE survey of teachers in 2013 suggesting half of almost 700 who responded had received only three hours’ training in the subject. A quarter had no training at all.
We must work hard to attract bright young graduates to join the RE profession, bringing with them energy, creativity and a vision for a more respectful, understanding and diverse society – but let’s be honest about some of the facts: as a subject, we need more resources.
Pawson is expected to mention Ofsted’s 2013 report on RE, which said more than half of schools were failing pupils on religious education and raised “significant concerns” about the training deficit.
This report found low standards, weak teaching, a confused sense of the purpose of religious education, training gaps and weaknesses in the way the subject was examined.
A report by MPs from the same year said many primary subject leaders in RE lacked sufficient experience and expertise to fulfil the role.
Pawson will claim that RE teachers will face greater challenges when proposed changes to GCSE subject specifications for RE in 2016 will require the study of two religions.
There is still a mountain to climb to bring RE teachers up to the level of qualification and skill that is required to make it a vibrant, exciting and academically rigorous subject in all our schools.
The government said RE was a “vital part” of its plan to prepare young people for life in modern Britain by helping children to develop an understanding of the different faiths and cultures which make up our society.
A Department for Education spokesman said:
That is why it remains compulsory at all key stages, including at primary.
From September top graduates, “including those with the potential to be exceptional RE teachers”, could apply for a training bursary “worth £9,000 for a first-class degree and £4,000 for a 2:1”, he added.
Hat tip: Marcus Robinson & BarrieJohn