Surge in RE Teacher Trainee Numbers as Candidates are Drawn from other Humanities

Four out of ten new PGCE Religious Education students have become teachers after graduating in other subjects such as History, Philosophy, or Sociology, boosting the number of new RE teacher trainees to its highest level in almost a decade.

New data obtained by the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) via a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education reveal that 196 Initial Teacher Training (ITT) students preparing to become RE teachers have taken a Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) course, having graduated in another subject.

The overall number of new ITT RE teachers increased significantly – by 30 per cent – to 488 in the 2019/20 recruitment cycle, compared with 376 in 2018/19. The number of new RE teacher trainees is at its highest for nine years; 860 students were recruited in 2010/11, exceeding the Government’s target by 131 per cent.

This surge in numbers follows a decision by the Department for Education to cover the cost of SKE courses for RE and to provide students with a bursary of £200 a week for the eight-week programme.

Commenting on the increase, NATRE Research Officer Deborah Weston said: “Around one hundred Theology and Religious Studies graduates choose to train to become Religious Education teachers every year. With a Government target for new RE student teachers ranging from 525 to 650 over the past four years, this means we need to recruit at least 80 per cent of trainees from other subject specialisms.

“This additional Government funding for SKE courses has opened up an exciting career in RE teaching to people from a broader range of backgrounds. Trainees mainly come from other Humanities, such as Philosophy, History or Sociology, but we have also seen new recruits from subjects including Law, Criminology, or Politics.”

A campaign to attract graduates and career changers to teach RE launched in 2015. It has highlighted the inspiring and challenging nature of the role, as well as the availability of financial support while training. Within 12 months of the campaign’s launch, RE teacher trainee applications were up 35% year-on-year.

Teacher training courses are open to graduates from a range of academic disciplines and from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. Successful candidates can benefit from a bursary of up to £9,000 a year while they study.

SKE courses are available from schools, universities or other providers. The Teach:RE Religion and Worldviews course, for example, requires 200 hours of distance learning over eight weeks.

Anyone looking for more information about training to be a RE teacher should visit