RE teachers lack training and support, concludes Parliamentary inquiry

18 Mar 2013

All party report ‘RE: the truth unmasked’ highlights lack of support for and provision of qualified RE teachers

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Religious Education (RE) has found that RE lessons are frequently taught by teachers with no qualifications in the subject. Furthermore the responsibility to educate young people on the different beliefs and values held in society is often given to teaching assistants, who receive little support, training or guidance. 

A three month long inquiry by the APPG into the supply of and support for RE teachers in schools, including a review of evidence from over 400 sources, found:

  • Over fifty per cent of those teaching RE in secondary schools have no qualification or relevant expertise in the subject
  • In more than half of the 300 primary schools participating in the inquiry, some or all of the pupils were taught RE by someone other than their class teacher
  • A quarter of all primary schools that responded said the lesson was given by a teaching assistant
  • Primary and primary trainee teachers lack confidence and expertise in teaching RE, especially in diverse and multi-cultural classrooms
  • Support for RE teachers at a local level has been dramatically reduced by local authority funding cuts and the academies programme
  • Bursaries for RE trainees have been removed and there has been a radical reduction in applicant numbers for 2013/14
  • Because of this lack of training and support many of those teaching RE are unable to meet the Department for Education’s Teaching Standards, selling young people short in their schools.

Commenting on the findings, chair of the APPG on RE, Stephen Lloyd MP said:

“There are a large number of excellent RE teachers across the country who are doing a first class job preparing children for the challenges life throws at them, and helping them make sense of the wide range of beliefs and cultures around us. But a range of policies, most notably those relating to the EBacc, academies and GCSE short courses, have served to lower RE’s status on the curriculum.

“As many children as possible should be encouraged to study GCSE Religious Studies – and it is essential that they are taught by experienced and trained professionals at primary and secondary level.

“It is illogical to think that we can dilute the professionalism and expertise needed to teach RE well and still have a generation of young people that understand and are sensitive to the growing levels of religious and non-religious diversity in our society.”

The inquiry found that the situation has been compounded by insufficient professional development opportunities for subject leaders, specialist teachers and those who take on the responsibility for teaching RE. Evidence also revealed a wide variation in the amount and quality of initial teacher training for RE with many trainee teachers stating they had little effective preparation to teach the subject.

The report RE: the truth unmasked, which will be delivered to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove on March 18th, includes clear recommendations for primary and secondary schools, teacher training providers, local authorities, Ofsted, those providing professional development for teachers, and the Department for Education.

For further media information:

Colin Hallmark / Harriet Johnson, 3:nine Communications

Tel: 0207 736 1888; 07745 914170; email: info@3nine.co.uk

Notes to Editors

1.     The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Religious Education was set up in November 2012 and is chaired by Eastbourne and Willingdon MP, Stephen Lloyd. In November 2012 it announced its inquiry to investigate the supply of and support for teachers of RE.  For a full copy of the report email info@3nine.co.uk

2.     The aims of the APPG are to:

  • Promote the highest possible standards of religious education in schools, colleges, universities and academies
  • Press for continuous improvement in religious education
  • Promote a clear, positive image, and public understanding of religious education
  • Advocate that every young person experiences a personally inspiring and academically rigorous education in religious and non-religious worldviews.

3.     Statistical data were compiled from school questionnaires sent to a geographical spread of primary RE co-ordinators and secondary heads of department. Over 300 primary schools and 130 secondary schools responded.

4.     The Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) provides the secretariat to the APPG.  The REC is a national organisation that represents a wide range of faiths and beliefs and members include the Church of England, the Catholic Church, the Free Churches, the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and Bahá’í faiths, the British Humanist Association and professional teaching associations.