Schools Minister asks RE community for new subject framework

30 Mar 2012

Minister of State for Schools, Nick Gibb, has asked the Religious Education Council for England and Wales (REC) to consider excellent practice in RE teaching and present its findings in a report. The report will consider the views of teachers, academics and faith and belief organisations. The minister has also offered support to help shape a revised RE teaching framework that ensures RE retains its academic rigour and is in step with the design and style of a National Curriculum. 

In response, John Keast, chair of the REC said:

“We’re pleased the minister has asked the REC to work collaboratively on how RE can change in line with a refreshed national curriculum. RE is a core part of the education system and we are committed, with our member bodies, to offering all the support we can to help schools deliver high value RE that will equip young people with a real grasp of the importance of a range of religious and non-religious beliefs in our world.”

The REC comprises a wide range of faith and belief groups, including representatives from the Church of England, the Catholic Church, the Free Churches, the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and Bahá’í faiths, and the British Humanist Association. Together with professional RE teaching associations and others, they believe RE teaching in schools is in danger of becoming insular and fragmented, just when religion and belief have a high profile, nationally and internationally, with individuals and communities. 

John Keast adds:

“We are concerned that today there is a high risk of RE being marginalised in both secondary and primary schools by a series of wider reforms. Changes to teacher training provision have already taken away teachers and we risk a drop in student numbers as RE does not qualify as a GCSE option in the English Baccalaureate.”

RE has been a core subject for all pupils since 1870 and there is a wide-reaching concern that plans to shake up the educational system are set to shake out RE. 

REC members recognise this may not be deliberate but is the unintended consequence of government actions as John Keast explains:

“Whilst RE’s compulsory status is currently protected in state schools, pressures such as the English Baccalaureate and academy expansion programmes can easily push schools to reduce their provision for the subject. It’s good news that the government has responded to our suggestions and is keen to support us to deliver robust and relevant RE for future generations.”

The Religious Education Council is committed to enabling everyone to work together to provide the support that RE needs. The opportunity to work in consultation with education policy makers – albeit on one small element of RE in schools - is a positive and welcome step.

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.    Established in 1973, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales brings together some fifty national organisations. These comprise academic and professional associations specialising in religions and religious education, as well as the individual religion and belief organisations inclusive of the range of faith communities found nationally, including the British Humanist Association. The REC’s shared priority is to strengthen the quality of provision for the subject throughout the educational system.

2.    The REC conducted research in October 2010 across a representative sample of 1,000 16-24 year olds which found that 80 per cent thought studying RE could promote better understanding of different religions and beliefs. For full details email info@3nine.co.uk

3.    In June 2011 a poll of 1,918 schools by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education found that a quarter of all academies and community schools are not providing statutory RE for 14 – 16 year olds. For full details email exec@natre.org.uk