RE Council members Culham St. Gabriel’s Trust, are asking RE Council members to consider sending a letter to Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan.
Secretary of State for Education
20 Great Smith St,
July 20th 2023
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing to you to raise the critical issues facing the teaching of Religious Education today.
A postcode lottery in the provision of RE currently exists in the UK. Some of our children are receiving a comprehensive, well-taught education in RE. They appreciate the place of religious and non-religious worldviews in our culture and have been supported as they develop their own worldview. Religious education helps children take their place in society; supports them in being effective and engaged in the workplace and their community, and in discussing and debating issues related to religion and belief.
Other children, however, receive either tokenistic RE or none at all, leaving school without the knowledge and understanding of their own worldviews or others, necessary for life in modern Britain. They are consequentially ill-prepared to play their part in our complex religious and non-religious society, with all the opportunities created by its diversity.
A core contributor to the current crisis in RE is the lack of government support in comparison to the narrow group of subjects included and prioritised in the English Baccalaureate. This is in stark contrast to the views of parents, with a 2022 Savanta Survey finding that around seven in ten parents regarded what their child learnt in RE as important.
When compared to the professional development opportunities made available to colleagues in other subject areas, teachers of RE are often made to feel forgotten. Between 2016 – 2021, whilst Music received £387 million of Government funding, Maths received £154 million and Science received £56 million, RE received no funding for school projects. In the absence of this, the RE community has had to resort to seeking grants from Charitable Trusts, an unsustainable model moving forwards.
The crisis in RE is exacerbated by missed recruitment targets in 9 of the last 10 years. The National Foundation for Educational Research estimates that by the end of this recruitment year, RE will recruit fewer than 44% of the target for the year. This has led to 51% of RE lessons in secondary schools being taught by non-specialist teachers, with pupils now three times more likely to be taught Religious Education by someone with no qualification in the subject. The latest report on the working lives of teachers lists RE as one of the subjects most affected by the lack of confidence in teachers.
The lack of funding for RE school projects, combined with a shortage of well-trained RE teachers, has resulted in a postcode lottery of RE provision across the UK. In the absence of consistently high-quality RE, our children miss out on an essential opportunity to learn knowledge and skills that will equip them to create tolerant and cohesive workplaces and communities, especially in the context of a diversifying and globalised world.
In light of the above, we call on the Government to offer funding for teacher training bursaries for those wishing to pursue a career in RE. Secondly, we would like to enquire about what steps the Government is taking to improve teacher recruitment into RE, including the evaluation of current systems offered to inform potential trainees. Finally, we would ask whether you would be willing to meet with our representatives, to discuss these matters further.