The REC welcomes the publication of the new criteria for specifications in GCSE and A level Religious Studies exams.  This means that RS exams will be available for first teaching in schools from September 2016 alongside most other curriculum subjects.  This is helpful to schools in their planning and enables RS to take its place with other newly developed subject specifications.  RS is a popular subject (in 2014 there were almost 270,000 entries for the full course Religious Studies GCSE, more than for History and Geography) and has been growing consistently for a number of years (the number of entries for Religious Studies GCSE full courses rose by 52.4% between 2010 and 2014; the number of entries for RS A level rose by 14.0% over the same period).

GCSE RS will for the first time include a requirement for students to learn about two religions, where previously they could study just one.  This should contribute to helping them prepare for life in modern British society with its many faiths and beliefs. The specifications for both GCSE and A Level are academically rigorous, important for a subject recognised by Russell Group universities as a ‘qualifying subject’ for their entry requirements.  Experts from the faith traditions involved have taken part in ensuring the criteria are authentic, accurate and reflect diversity within religions.

It is disappointing that the GCSE criteria do not include the chance for students to undertake an optional systematic study of non-religious worldviews such as Humanism.  When the REC agreed a National Curriculum Framework for RE (2013) it gave provision for pupils to systematically study a non-religious worldview such as humanism.  The new exams provide some scope for this but not in the systematic way the REC would have preferred. In the REC’s view this is a missed opportunity.  The REC hopes that exam boards will make the most of the references to non-religious worldviews that do exist in order to give the best educational opportunity to young people.

RS does offer students a great chance to learn about some of the world’s major faiths and we look forward to seeing engaging and challenging specifications developed on the basis of these new criteria, which will promote interest on the part of both students and teachers.



Media enquiries: Colin Hallmark / Harriet Johnson, 3:nine Communications

Tel: 0207 736 1888; email:

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 religion and belief organisations inclusive of the range of faith communities found nationally, including the British Humanist Association.

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 focal point for their concerns, 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. NATRE is a member of, and works in collaboration with, the Religious Education Council for England and Wales and the Council for Subject Associations.


ReThinkRE Campaign