Professional Support for Teachers

I am newly qualified and I’ve been told I’m in charge of RE. Where can I get help?

Good luck with this important role! In general it is not ideal for an NQT to have to take on responsibility for a subject area because the key priority is to develop your abilities and experience as a teacher first and foremost. In spite of this NQTs are sometimes asked to take on such responsibilities. Here are some places to go for help, but don’t be too ambitious in your first year.

First of all there is immediate help on line. The section leading and managing, resourcing and planning religious education in the RE CPD handbook is an authoritative source of help and information and has a section on RE subject leadership in the primary school. Other sections give information about different religious and belief traditions if subject knowledge is something you are concerned about.

For up to date information on all aspects of the subject, RE Online is a very helpful portal with a section on subject leadership. You may also find the Educators section of the RE Council website useful for information about projects and current issues.

Secondly, you will get help from National Association for Teachers of RE (NATRE), the subject teacher association for RE. NATRE has over 100 local teacher groups all over the country and if there is one near you this would provide a source of support. ou can also join NATRE to receive termly mailings, resources and updates as well as to obtain member benefits such as free advice; NATRE also has a range of useful publications for sale. Your local authority may provide support through its SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on RE) or it may have an RE Adviser, although unfortunately this is becoming less common. If you are in a church school there will almost certainly be a diocesan adviser who will be able to offer some support. Both local authority and diocese may run local support groups too.

There isn’t an RE adviser for my local authority. How can I get support when I need it?

Your local authority may organise professional development in the form of courses or network meetings even if there is no local adviser, as they may buy in provision to make sure support is available for their schools.

The National Association for Teachers of RE (NATRE) is a good source of support through its local teacher network groups – a list is given on its website.

The local Anglican diocese may make support available to community schools as well as those with a Church of England designation – search on the internet for your local diocesan website to find out.

You may be able to buy in support from neighbouring local authorities (Google their websites to find out about RE provision), or from a specialist provider such as RE Today Services, which is linked to NATRE, or in the Association of RE Consultants, Inspectors and Advisers (AREIAC) consultancy database.

I am an RE teacher and have been told that I have to take on responsibility for collective worship. I don’t want to. Am I within my rights to refuse?

Any teacher has the right to withdraw from collective worship. The Education Act 1944, para 30, provides that teachers should not be disqualified from employment or discriminated against in terms of pay or promotion on the grounds of their religious opinions or practice in participating or not participating in acts of worship or religious education. (There are certain specific exceptions to this in the case of teachers in voluntary aided schools and reserved teachers in voluntary controlled and special agreement schools).

However it might be difficult for you to tell your head you wanted to exercise this right if you have never expressed any reservations about taking part in collective worship before.

In principle, nobody can be forced to take on a responsibility unless it forms part of the job description for the role to which they were appointed. There is no necessary connection between RE as a subject and collective worship as a whole school activity. That said, it may be that some RE subject leaders have a level of experience and understanding which would help them make a better job of planning collective worship than some other teachers would, but this is not necessarily the case. Have you consulted your teacher union representative?

RE isn’t appreciated in my school. How can I raise its reputation?

You will find some useful ideas and information on the RE Quality Mark website, particularly in the criteria and awards section.

How much is the average capitation allowance for pupils in secondary schools for RE?

It is almost impossible to answer this question because the expenditure it has to cover varies from one school to the next e.g. in some cases, capitation would have to cover stationery use, in others not.

However it is often a depressingly low amount. The Glasgow study, ‘Does religious education work?’ led by Professor Jim Conroy and published in February 2012 found that ‘in most state schools £1.00 or less is spent on each child per annum on materials and books for RE’

Useful documents

I teach in an academy and I can’t find out exactly what we are required to do in terms of RE and collective worship. Can you give me any information about this?

This document covers a wide range of issues relating to RE and collective worship requirements in academies and free schools.

Where can I see a copy of Non Statutory National Framework for RE (2004) and RE Non Statutory Guidance (2010)?

Non Statutory National Framework (2004)

RE Non Statutory Guidance (2010)

This offers guidance on the following topics:

  • the importance of RE
  • the legal framework, rights and responsibilities
  • providing high-quality RE
  • good practice for governors and headteachers
  • good practice for teachers and support staff.