Two decades of growth in A level RS at risk over a five year funding crisis says the Religious Education Council as Father of the House Sir Peter Bottomley warns the Government must not ‘let down’ young people.
The number of students taking an A level in Religious Studies in England and Wales has fallen by 447, despite an increase of 6.1 percent last year.
This year’s 2.7 percent decrease comes after a two decade period in which RS has had one of the fastest growth rates for A levels in the humanities, beating Law, Geography and History in a similar time period. This year there were 45.5 percent more RS A level entries than in 2003.
The National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) and the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) have warned this period of growth is now under threat after a five year funding gap that has impacted current and future young people taking the subject.
This includes disadvantaged students, who are twice as likely to take RS A level than their peers, favouring it over Geography and History.
Responding to the results, Father of the House Sir Peter Bottomley, reiterated his call for a National Plan, a proposal he first announced after chairing a parliamentary roundtable on the subject’s future in March:
“We must not let down young people by continuing to starve the subject of funding and leadership. Schools and colleges need a National Plan that sets out a modern and relevant curriculum for education in religion and in the world’s faiths and cultures. Generations of students should understand spiritual development and interfaith understanding that is necessary to contribute fully within modern British society.”
Iona, an RS student who has accepted an offer to study Philosophy and Politics at Bristol, also spoke about her experience of the subject’s funding crisis at the roundtable in March:
“I changed colleges so I could take an A level in RS since it wasn’t offered at my previous school. For me, the interdisciplinary and philosophical aspect of A level RS was a chance to think deeply about a variety of religious and non-religious worldviews.
“During our two years we had three different teachers, one of whom wasn’t qualified to teach RS at A level. Due to this inconsistency, I spent a lot of my own time studying and was lucky enough to have a parent who could help me. I’d like to see more support given to the subject and its teachers so other students can fully experience the benefits of A level RS.”
Sarah Lane Cawte, Chair of the REC, said:
“Over two decades RS has become more and more popular for A level students. However, this year’s results raise serious concerns over the ongoing funding crisis in the subject. The subject has cemented its reputation as academically rigorous and personally enriching with graduates going onto successful careers in media, law and politics at some of the best universities in the country. It also appears to be a tool for social mobility, with many disadvantaged students taking the subject and doing well, opening up a wealth of transferable skills to these pupils that may previously not have been accessible.
“Sadly, we now foresee a situation in which the brightest and best students attracted to the A level risk being let down by a lack of specialism as a result of government inaction over funding and teacher recruitment.”
Katie Freeman, Chair of NATRE, said:
“Congratulations to all students who have faced immense challenges in the last few years. These results are testament to the hardworking and passionate community of RE teachers we have across the country. At A level we see some of the brightest students attracted to a subject which sees them debate, analyse and think deeply about a variety of religious and non-religious worldviews on humanity’s most profound questions. Subsequently, teaching the subject at A level requires a high level of expertise and knowledge. A National Plan will ensure we can support current and future teachers by scaling out the best evidenced-based curriculum to ensure every A level student is taught by the specialist they deserve.”
Rosetta Fourlagawo – Sky News Producer
“RS was one of my favourite subjects at school. The opportunity to think deeply about some of life’s biggest questions sparked in me a great curiosity about the world beyond my own. At A level, its academic approach to understanding different worldviews has been invaluable to my work as a journalist. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in a career that requires them to think critically about the world around them.”
John De Bono QC – Lawyer
“The study of A level RS provides a number of invaluable skills. The ability to build an argument, the ability to critique the argument of someone else as well have empathy with other points of view you don’t necessarily agree with. These are all transferable skills I use as a lawyer, and I’m sure other people in business and other professions use every day of their working lives.”