Education Secretary Michael Gove has told religious leaders Religious Education has “suffered” in England’s schools amid government changes. He said he had thought that because schools have to provide RE lessons, the subject was “protected”.
Church leaders and RE teachers have complained that the subject is being sidelined and that fewer people are taking it for GCSE.
Mr Gove said he wanted to work with faith groups to improve RE teaching.
Speaking at a Church of England seminar on Wednesday, he said: “If I’m being honest, over the last three years I’ve thought that RE is compulsory is ‘protection enough’, and therefore I’ve concentrated on other areas,” he said.
“I think RE has suffered as a result of my belief that the protection that it had in the curriculum was sufficient, and I don’t think that I’ve done enough.”
There has been a campaign to get RE included in the English Baccalaureate – a league table measure of the proportion of pupils in individual schools who get five good grades in specific subjects.
RE teachers and supporters of other subjects, particularly art and music, have complained that pupils were being steered away from their subjects and towards those included in the English Baccalaureate – English, maths, two sciences, history or geography plus a foreign language.
At the seminar, Reverend John Pritchard, the Bishop of Oxford and chairman of the Church of England’s Board of Education, told Mr Gove that this move, alongside other changes, had “been quite demoralising” for the RE community.
Well Mr Gove, it is about time you have got something right, but I don’t think that this only really happens in secondary schools. RE like PE in some schools is seen as easy to sideline, particularly PE, where some teachers blame the rain or the wind for not doing it. There are a lot of teachers who are not religious thus lack the confidence to teach the subject.
But for those teachers who do teach RE, it is their job to inspire the children to take on the subject. I’m not going to lie, my experiences of learning RE in secondary school has been copying out of a textbook or maybe the odd watching a video if we were lucky. I was forced into taking the GCSE but really would rather have dropped it in favour of other subjects. If the content or teaching was more inspiring I might have been more interested in the subject. So while Mr Gove hasn’t really protected RE teaching as he had hoped for, the teaching needs to improve more.
What do you think? What were your experiences of RE at school? Did you enjoy it or not? Comment, like, share