One of the great concerns of the whole RE community at present is not only the current shortage of qualified and trained RE teachers but the prospect of this becoming even worse. The grossly unfair withdrawal of bursaries for RE PGCE students has already been highlighted in the RE APPG report RE: the Truth Unmasked.
About three weeks ago I, along with Sarah Smalley Executive officer of the REC and Deborah Weston our company secretary, had a meeting with David Laws, the Schools Minister, whose brief includes teacher training. We presented a copy of the APPG report, and argued strongly for the reinstatement of the bursaries for 2013-14 on the grounds of a real RE teacher shortage and equity. He gave us an intelligent hearing, asked pertinent questions, and finally agreed to look at the evidence again.
He warned us that equity could be achieved by removing bursaries for other subjects as well as RE, and that such were the desperate economic times, that could not be ruled out. The most powerful argument is that of shortage, and we were able to tell David how flawed the DfE figures on RE teachers were in the Workforce Survey. He invited us to submit a full briefing with up to date statistics.
This we have now done, and we await a response from him or his officials about the bursaries.
Woolwich is still much in the news, and people are still rightly horrified by the death of Drummer Lee Rigby. We are also concerned about some of the extreme reactions that seem to have happened following that dreadful murder. In nearly all the press comment (both general and educational) about tackling terrorism and promoting better community relations, RE has hardly been mentioned. Yet at the heart of the matter is religion – how it is understood, interpreted and followed. This is also what RE is about. There is now much to do to make our RE voice heard in the ongoing debate. Here I think we shall find the RE APPG finding its next issue to work.
One other thing – look out for the draft RE curriculum document released for consultation on 7 June. We want to hear the views of the whole RE community on what is written, so that we can take them into account in the final version to be prepared in late July and August. There is much more to do yet in the Review, but the draft just released is a significant step forward. Have a look at this section of the website.