A new poll from the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) indicates that the standing of Religious Education (RE) in England at Key Stage 4 (ages fourteen to sixteen) is being eroded since the introduction by Government in 2010 of its English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance indicator.
In the poll of 625 secondary schools, NATRE found there is to be a reduction in the 2012/13 academic year in the number of RE subject specialist teaching staff in 24% of schools, compared to an increase in only 11%, with 82% of those schools reporting a decrease citing the introduction of the EBacc as the primary reason. The poll also found that 16% of schools had reduced the amount of teaching time in Year 11 for RE since the EBacc was introduced, compared to only 6% that had reported an increase.
Worryingly, the survey also found that 33% of schools were not adhering to their legal commitments with regard to the provision of RE at Key Stage Four, up from 28% when NATRE polled this question in 2011. In law, RE is a compulsory part of the curriculum in state funded schools, although it is not part of the National Curriculum.
Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, said ‘It has been suggested that the EBacc would provide schools with an incentive to neglect the provision of those subjects that the indicator does not assess, including RE, and NATRE’s latest findings suggest these fears have become reality.
‘It is vital children grow up knowing about the range of religion and beliefs held in society, partly out of general knowledge, but also as a pathway to good citizenship, so that they can better understand those from different religious and cultural backgrounds. Britain is a multi-faith society, and we don’t want that to become a multi-fractious society.
‘Accord therefore urges the Government to better secure the provision of high quality RE in all state funded schools. This includes by adding RE to a flexible, but nationally prescribed curriculum, to ensure that basic standards are met. Meanwhile, we also urge the Government to follow the recommendations made by the House of Commons Education Select Committee in their July 2011 report into the English Baccalaureate to review of the complement of subjects in the EBacc, and to consult more widely about how Government can best measure students’ and schools’ performance.’
The Government’s English Baccalaureate measure assesses the percentage of students in a school who achieve grades A*-C in English, mathematics, two sciences, a foreign language and history or geography at GCSE level. The name “English Baccalaureate” has also been recently re-used by the Government as the title for new qualifications that are designed to replace GCSEs in the coming years.
‘An analysis of a Survey of teachers on the impact of the EBacc on student opportunity to study GCSE RS’ by the NATRE can be found at http://www.retoday.org.uk/media/display/NATRE_EBacc_Survey_2012_Final.pdf.
The conclusions of the ‘House of Commons Education Committee: The English Baccalaureate: Fifth Report of Session 2010–12’ can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmeduc/851/85110.htm.