What's this Government got against Religious Education?
|Gove: Prefers History|
When Gove first launched the “English Baccalaureate” it understandably included a Humanities subject as a requirement. However according to Gove there only were two Humanities subjects - History and Geography. RE teachers and others challenged this but inexplicably Gove refused to change his mind and would not include RE.
The impact of this is already becoming clear on the ground as The Telegraph report:
Figures show that a third of secondary schools now flout the law by refusing to allow pupils to study the subject in the final two years of compulsory education.
In a damning report, it emerged that rising numbers of schools were cutting specialist RE teachers and relying on staff with a poor grasp of the subject to deliver lessons.
The study by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education also found that more pupils were dropping the subject at GCSE level or being forced to squeeze courses into just a year.However as Ofsted are not asked to check on schools fulfilling their statutory requirement to teach RE there seems to be little or nothing that happens if schools just ignore it.
This week the DfE also announced another decision that will harm RE when it announced that the bursary of between £5,000 and £9,000 a year for graduates to study a PGCE in RE has been dropped. Bursaries (up to 20K) are still available for many other subjects. The rationale seems to be that RE is no longer a “shortage” subject - which the NATRE survey seems to show is a consequence of the EBacc policy!
Does any of this matter? Well the Archbishop of Canterbury perhaps understandably thought so when he criticised the decision against the background of what he called the "marginalisation" of religion.
Then again he would say that wouldn’t he! But even amongst those who are not churchgoers, or even atheists RE is recognised as a valuable subject. RE and aligned subjects such as Philosophy teach children to think about values and moral problems not just about religion. With the concentration on academic subjects there is precious little of this kind of teaching left in schools.
Not that an understanding of religion is not a useful thing for people living in the modern world. Given we ourself live in a multi cultural society and the world is still heavily dominated by religion understanding it a key skill. With US embassies under attack due to religious offence taken and wars and disputes between nations with religious routes it is as vital as ever that people understand religious belief and world religions.
At one time the only subject you could study in University was Theology. Now study of religion and with it teaching young people to think about what they believe and why is rapidly disappearing from our schools seemingly due to the personal view of the Secretary of State who would I think rather children study History.
Update 2nd Oct Since writing this post I have learned that the University of East Anglia have now dropped their Secondary RE PGCE course all together. They say that the Teaching Agency did not give them enough places to make the course viable. The Teaching Agency (part of the DfE) say this is due to "low demand".