Urgent action needed to curb GCSE decline

The key outcomes of the 2014 GCSE results in England and Wales for Religious Education are as follows:

  • 387,915 RS GCSE entries (combined short and full course) were recorded; a decrease of 8% from 2013 (420,151 entries)
  • Full course entries increased by 7% from 251,063 in 2013 to 269,494 in 2014 
  • Short course entries fell dramatically by 30% from 169,088 in 2013 to 118,421 in 2014

When RS GCSE entries in England over the past three years are compared to those in Wales (where the EBacc and the average point score at GCSE have not been adopted as school performance measures), the following patterns emerge:

England

  • Take up of the GCSE RS short course has fallen from 211,269 in 2012 to 99,601 in 2014 (-53%)
  • GCSE RS full course entries in England have increased from 216,182 in 2012 to 258,067 in 2014 (19%)

Wales

  • Short course GCSE RS entries have remained stable over the past three years (19,182 in 2012 compared with 18,820 in 2014) 
  • RS GCSE full course entries have increased from 10,409 in 2012 to 11,427 in 2014 (10%)

Overall this means that compared with 2012 nearly 70,000 fewer 16 year olds in England will complete key stage 4 this year having not gaining a qualification in Religious Studies (a drop of 15%).

This echoes research by the National Association of Teachers of RE (published in November 2013) that found that a third of community schools and over a third of academies without a religious character are still failing to meet their legal or contractual agreements to provide religious education for this key age group.

GCSE RS entries – England and Wales (2009-2014)

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Data Sources: http://ofqual.gov.uk/standards/statistics/provisional-summer-gcse-igcse-entries/  
http://www.jcq.org.uk/examination-results/gcses

Comment from Ed Pawson, Chair, National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE):

"While it’s encouraging to see a continued increase in the number of students taking the full course GCSE in RS, the overall decline in the number of entries is a major concern.

The Government has continually hidden behind the statutory nature of RE, claiming that it provides sufficient protection for the subject, but it’s clearly not working.

You only have to look at the stark contrast between England and Wales, where overall entries continue to rise, to see the damaging impact of Government policy over the past few years. Now is the time to reinstate checks to ensure schools are meeting their legal or contractual obligations to teach RE.”

Comment from John Keast, Chair, Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC): 

"I’d like to congratulate those schools that have increased the number of students entering for the GCSE full course, despite the negative pressure of the EBacc and average point score performance measurement systems.

These figures support our research which has found RE to be a popular and academically rigorous subject among young people.

More alarming though is the overall decline in students receiving a solid grounding in RE due to the dramatic fall in short course entries in recent years. The danger is that, as our society becomes increasingly multicultural and religious division continues to dominate the news agenda, we create a section of society that lacks the understanding of diverse faiths and beliefs that is essential to growing up in twenty-first century Britain.”

Media information

Colin Hallmark / Harriet Johnson, 3:nine Communications

Tel: 0207 736 1888; 07745 914170 ; 07837 053 207; email: info@3nine.co.uk

National Association of Teachers of RE
NATRE is the subject teacher association for RE professionals in primary and secondary schools and higher education, providing a representative voice at national level and publications and courses to promote professional development. NATRE’s Executive consists of a majority of serving teachers from primary and secondary schools who are elected for a three-year term of service. 

Religious Education Council of England and Wales
Established in 1973, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) brings together over 60 national organisations. These comprise academic and professional associations specialising in religions and religious education, as well as individual religions and belief organisations inclusive of the range of faith communities found nationally, including the British Humanist Association.  

ReThinkRE Campaign website: www.rethinkre.org