Religious education has been an integral feature of
the country s

educational fabric ever since he foundations of universal education started to be laid in the 19th century.
However that provision is now in
peril. Education Secretary Michael Gove s
rapidly implemented plans to shake up the
educational system appear to be shaking out RE.

The government s decision to exclude RE from the English
Baccalaureate EBacc a new system for comparing the performance of different
schools which recognizes
achievement in Eng­lish, Mathematics, Science, a foreign language and a Humanities
subject -has led to a drop
in the overall number of pupils studying RE at GCSE level as schools shift
pupils towards Baccalau­reate
subjects in order to climb official league tables.

Being left out of the EBacc is already having devastating
consequences on RE schools. A survey by the National Associ­ation of Teachers of RE
NATRE based on evidence from
over half of all state maintained secondary schools in Eng land found that a
quarter of all acad­emies and community schools are not providing statutory RE for 14-16
year olds. This
non-compliance is predicted to increase during 2011-12. GCSE RE entries between
2010-11 and 2011-12 have dropped by more than a third in academies and community schools.
In those schools where entry levels have dropped, over half of respondents attrib­ute the drop to the impact of RE being excluded
from the EBacc.

Amongst the most vocal critics is the Church of England,
which accused the government of having “no will” to ad­dress the problem. In a recent
report, `The Church School
of the Future”, it criticized
the exclusion of RE from the English
Baccalaureate and also high­lighted a
decline in the number of new RE teachers being trained. The govern­ment
has cut the number of RE teacher training
places by 45%, a move which the
Church believes will prevent schools from delivering the subject
properly to students.

The report also condemned the refusal  to include RE in a major review of the
Catholic Church education bodies, has called for RE to be included in the EBacc.

For children and young people, RE is an important
opportunity in the curriculum to be taught to recognise and respond to the challenges
of growing up in a di­verse,
multi-cultural society. Established in 1973,
REC represents the collective interest
of its fifty nine member bodies, including both professional
associations and faith and belief
organisations in deepening and
strengthening the teach­ing and
learning of RE. The organization has
initiated a national Subject Review of
Religious Education, to parallel the review of other subjects on the curricu­lum that is currently being undertaken and funded by the government.

RE is about challenges; it challenges young people to
think about the mean­ing and purposes of life, what belief about God means; to
ask about right and wrong to consider what it means to be human. RE can encourage a
sense of identity,
community and citizenship as well as respect for all and sensitiv­ity towards others.
It can help children National
Curriculum, which will set out the
essential knowledge that all children should acquire at each stage of
their educational development. The omission was
having a “damaging effect on the status
of the subject”, it concluded “GCSE
Religious Studies is a subject that
requires high standards of knowl­edge and evaluation of evidence. It ex­plores
religious and cultural topics and engages in debates over issues of diver­sity and conflict, ethics, philosophy and social change,” said Ed Pawson, Chair of NATRE. It has grown massively in popularity over recent years because stu­dents recognize it as a subject of signifi­cant
relevance to the world they encoun­ter.
By excluding RS from the EBacc Michael Gove is effectively squeezing it out of the curriculum in many of our schools across the country. This truly is a
cruel blow.”

In the light of new evidence about the negative effects of RE having been ex­cluded from the 2010 EBacc, The Reli­gious Education Council of England and Wales REC which includes NATRE, along with the Church of England and learn
how to combat prejudice and en­courage
understanding and empathy for people
who hold different beliefs and worldviews.

Recent research on attitudes to RE by YouGov on behalf of
the Religious Edu­cation Council of England and Wales REC , presented to the All
Party Parlia­mentary Group on RE
last June uncov­ered especially positive views of RE from those with most recent
experiences of school; of those with an opinion, 60% of full time students agree RE is essential to a multi-faith society while 65% agree that RE is a beneficial subject
to study. With religious and non-religious diver­sity increasing, these figures
reflect the value adults attach to young
people be­ing able to articulate
their own beliefs, as well as
engaging with, respecting and understanding
others. Half of all those who gave
an opinion said RE was an es­sential
component of a multi-faith soci­ety,
as it promotes mutual respect, toler­ance
and understanding. This rose to over half among 18-24 year olds
52%   and 25-34 year olds 56% . In
contrast, only 9% said they thought it was harm­ful for pupils to study RE and only 13% thought it should not be taught in schools at all.

The findings appear to show that gov­ernment policy
is out of kilter with pub­lic opinion and
that rather than mar­ginalize RE the
government would do better to support
and promote its con­tinued teaching
in schools.


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