The key outcomes of the 2014 A level results in England for Religious Education are as follows:

  • 20,196 RS A level entries were recorded; nearly double (96%) the number in 2002/03 (10,313 entries were recorded in 2002/03)
  • RS A level entries increased more than any arts, humanity or social science subject this year (up 5.3% on 2012/13)
  • RS A level entries have increased more than any arts, humanity or social science subject over the past 10 years (the nearest is Economics with an increase of 57%)
  • In line with other subjects the results are generally lower, but the percentage of students achieving A* at RS A level has increased from 5.4% to 6.8%

The contextual evidence highlights the status of RS as a subject for Higher Education entry:

  • The Russell Group of top universities has made it clear that RS A level provides ‘suitable preparation for University generally’
  • Both Oxford and Cambridge University include Religious Studies in the top level list of ‘generally suitable Arts A levels’
  • Applicants with Religious Studies A level were more likely to gain admission to study History at Oxford University in 2012 than those with A levels in many ‘facilitating’ subjects
  • 20% of students admitted to Oxford University to study mathematics in 2011 had an RS A level (more than those with Economics, Physics and Business Studies A levels)
  • Research from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University on the comparative difficulty of different subjects at A level showed that RS was ‘in the middle difficulty range, similar to Geography and more demanding than English’.

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

“These results are extremely encouraging. They show that schools and students value Religious Education as a key subject that provides great preparation for Higher Education.
A level RS is certainly not an easy option. As the research from Durham University proves, it is more challenging than some of the so-called ‘facilitating’ subjects, and universities are recognising this fact.
I am delighted to see that so many students, parents and teachers are seeing through the politically-motivated rhetoric, which – in an attempt to favour EBacc subjects – has distorted the true message of the Russell Group’s ‘Informed Choices’ advice.”

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

“RS A level provides an excellent foundation for a range of careers – from medicine to public service to business. Imagine how better prepared a doctor or business professional is if they understand the culture and customs of the individuals they are treating or dealing with. Or how a broad and deep knowledge of different world faiths and beliefs can help young people truly understand the context of events in the Middle East.
As our world becomes increasingly interdependent and we interact with more diverse groups day to day, RE is becoming ever more relevant. It is a shame that while students, universities and employers clearly recognise this fact, the number of teachers being trained to teach RE is falling. Let’s hope that the new Secretary of State addresses this as a matter of urgency.”

Media information

Colin Hallmark / Harriet Johnson, 3:nine Communications

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GCE A level results of A level candidates in England.
Source: Higher Education Funding Council for England (updated by NATRE, August 14, 2014)

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: