Lobbying & Advocacy
As the subject association for Religious Education (RE), NATRE is the national voice for teachers of the subject. It maintains and raises the profile of RE and tackles issues and concerns around the subject.
Below is a list of activities we have undertaken:
- We published the outcome of a meeting with Esther Zarifi of AQA, using feedback from teachers on the new GCSE and A level examinations. View feedback.
- We produced a report analysing School Workforce Data from the DfE about the teaching of RE in secondary schools. View report.
- We made an an initial response to the release of the Commission on RE report. View NATRE's response.
Working with MPs to ask written questions of Ministers is an important part of NATRE’s lobbying work. This example is from William Wragg MP and asks about the training of primary teachers.
- Chair of NATRE, Ben Wood appears on BBC Breakfast TV to talk about modern RE and the Commission on RE report.
- Representatives of NATRE attend launch of Commission on RE report at Westminster
Representatives of NATRE, as part of the RE Policy Unit, attend the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool to lobby MPs, Councillors and other officials about the importance of RE in all schools. The voice of practicing teachers such as Joanne Harris and Naomi Anstice carries weight in explaining what good RE looks like and what needs to be done to ensure that more students get the kind of RE they deserve.
Representatives of NATRE, as part of the RE Policy Unit, attend the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham to lobby MPs, Councillors and other officials about the importance of RE in all schools. The voice of practicing teachers such as Ben Wood carries weight in explaining what good RE looks like and what needs to be done to ensure that more students get the kind of RE they deserve.
Positve conversations were held with many MPs and Ministers such as Damian Hinds, Sajid Javid and Nick Gibb.
Meetings with the DFE
In the autumn term we met with the DFE on several occasions to discuss complaints, non- compliance and the necessity of support for RE. We were pleased to work with the DFE to jointly provide a subject knowledge enhancement courses for secondary trainee teachers. We are currently meeting with the DFE approximately once a month on your behalf.
National RE Networks Ambassador
Naomi Anstice was appointed to this new role which seeks to develop, encourage and coordinate regional RE support structures. Naomi will now lead a team of Regional Ambassadors in developing the programme so that RE teachers across the country have access to high quality CPD and support.
Subject Knowledge Enhancement Course
We were pleased to announce a partnership with Culham St. Gabriel’s to offer a new 8 week/200 hour Religion and Worldviews Subject Knowledge Enhancement Programme for those entering teacher training in September 2019. This came as a result of the DfE’s announcement that funding would be made available for those requiring such a course in preparation for teaching.
We have been working with Ofqual to provide teacher feedback on the new exam courses for KS4 and KS5. Exec member Rachel Jackson-Royal has gathered responses from teachers around the country and used these to speak on behalf of teachers with Ofqual.NATRE also continues to work with Ofqual in reviewing exam processes and helping teachers to understand the relvant parts of the examination system.
- NATRE Executive Committee meets to discuss their response to the Commission on RE report. Read their response here.
- We published guidance on withdrawal from RE, written with the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT). Access the resource. In early January, the DfE tweeted a link to this document saying it offered guidance on the law and advice on dealing with specific withdrawal situations.
- Representatives of NATRE attend the Horizons event which brings together funders interested in Religious Education. The event helps funders to understand the needs of teachers of RE and how the subject can be helped to develop over the next few years
- Meetings with OFSTED
We regularly connect with the Ofsted leads for RE Mark Quinn and Mark Evans but we have also been able to meet with other personnel from OFSTED including Chris Jones (Research and Development) and Matthew Purves, OFSTED Deputy director to discuss the new draft framework.
- Meeting with Regional Schools Commissioner
We met with the Regional School Commissioner for South London and the South East of England and discussed the challenges faced by teachers who work in schools under academy regulations ensuring that enough time is provided to ensure pupil receive high quality RE and that it is delivered by appropriately qualified and trained teachers. We agreed to write some material that can be shared with multi-academy trusts via the regular mailing and also a note for Chief Executives. We also discussed some specific cases that have been shared with us and some steps to resolve their issues.
The campaign to implement the ‘National Plan for RE’ presented by the Commission on RE continues. Letters written to MPs asking them to raise the issues with Ministers is an effective way of raising profile and increasing pressure.
Students from Haslingden High School in Lancashire wrote to their local MP, asking him to talk with the relevant Minister. This led to replies both from their MP and from Nick Gibb.
- DfE's response to CoRE
The Commission on RE received a disappointing reply from the Secretary of State for Education. NATRE’s response to this can be found below, while NATRE representatives continue to meet with officials from the DfE to discuss the ‘National Plan for RE’ proposed by the Commission.
The Commission on RE received a disappointing reply from the Secretary of State for Education. NATRE’s response to this can be found below, while NATRE representatives continue to meet with officials from the DfE to discuss the ‘National Plan for RE’ proposed by the Commission. View response.
- AQA RS Expert Panel
Representatives of NATRE attended the AQA RS Expert Panel in London on 10 January. We used this meeting to communicate feedback from teaching colleagues about the first GCSE and A-level RS exams. Some of the points made in this NATRE report were reiterated. View feedback.
- Primary1000 project
We were pleased to launch the Primary1000 project, which seeks to help support 1000 primary schools to improve their RE. More information about this project can be found here. Read more.
On 26 January, nearly 350 RE teachers and professionals met in London for the 5th NATRE StrictlyRE conference – the biggest ever! Read more.
- Primary Survey launch
At StrictlyRE, the findings of NATRE’s survey of primary provision for RE was launched. Feedback from mover 500 teachers raised some important issues about the lack of qualifications and training that primary teachers have to teach RE. This is a crucial issue, and one which we continue to press the DfE on in our regular meetings. Read more.
At the January meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for RE, NATRE Primary Vice-Chair Katie Freeman spoke after an invite from her MP Luke Pollard. Katie spoke about the RE that goes on in her school and the importance of this to all of her pupils. Read more.
- Meetings with ASCL
Chair of NATRE, Ben Wood, held an initial phone call with a representative from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) to explore how the two organisations might work together to benefit teachers, schools and pupils. Further discussions and meetings are planned in the next few months.
- OFSTED framework
As a member of the Religious Education Council (REC) Education Committee, Ben Wood attended the latest meeting, where major points of discussion were the new Ofsted framework and the review of the RE Quality Mark (REQM). REQM is a way for schools to assess, develop and celebrate the quality of RE they provide. Hundreds of schools across the country, from all sectors, have been awarded the Quality Mark, and the current review is considering ways to make the programme more effective in the coming years.
- Humanities 20:20
A group of History, Geography and RE lecturers and others are working on a manifesto called Humanities 20:20, supporting the place of Humanities in Primary schools. Fiona Moss went to meet representatives in London together with the Association for Citizenship teachers.
- National plan for Religious Education
The RE policy unit met in February and discussed the next steps in establishing a National Plan for Religious Education as proposed in the Commission for RE. The plan will include lobbying activity, attending party political conferences, collecting research evidence, use of the media, meetings with governmental officials, MPs, minister(s) of state and others to make the changes necessary to secure a much-needed improvement to the quality and level of provision for RE.
- Meeting with NAPE
The National Association for Primary Education held its Primary Umbrella group meeting. NATRE attended and were able to share our work with OFSTED and our Primary survey results.
- National meeting of RE CPD
NATRE were part of a national meeting of RE CPD providers and RE associations and were able to share information on OFSTED and the regional ambassadors for RE.
- NATRE Executive Committee meeting
The NATRE Executive Committee met on March 8/9th in Birmingham. The main area of our work during that time was the new Ofsted framework. NATRE is planning on publishing advice for schools on the new framework in the next few months. We are grateful that Mary Myatt was able to come and help us with our work in this regard.
The Executive also heard about the newly instituted work of the National RE Network Ambassadors and continued to develop materials for the Priamry1000 project.
The Executive is made up of primary and secondary teachers from across the country, who give up their time to work for the benefit of teachers of RE. You can read more about who is on the Executive here.
- Quality of exam marking
In response to a consultation run by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), NATRE submitted evidence on the issue of exam malpractice. We were able to use feedback from many teachers who are concerned about the quality of exam marking, and the issue of recruitment of markers.
- Schools not meeting their legal requirements
NATRE continues to work with parents and teachers at schools where the provision for RE seems not to meet the legal requirements. Currently, NATRE is assisting a number of stakeholders with investigations and in some cases the complaints process against (how many)in relation to nine schools in the (region)England. We are being assisted in this work by the Department for Education and Ofsted as well as school improvement officers, SACRE members and others.
- NATRE's response to the Welsh governments consultation on the curriculum
NATRE submitted a response to the Welsh government’s consultation on the proposed new Welsh Curriculum. The Welsh proposals offer a marked difference to the direction of travel in England’s schools. If you would like to read more about these proposals, you can find them here.
- Educational Recording Agency
The Educational Recording Agency have been in discussions with NATRE via Fiona Moss our CEO, and Joanne Harris and Katie Freeman are now liaising with them to make radio and TV broadcasts that are useful in RE lessons more available to teachers.
- CfSA Meeting
NATRE is a member of the Council for Subject Associations (CfSA) and at the meeting on 29 March 2019 key topics that are affecting schools and subjects taught.
Discussion was lively about the Curriculum Fund, which is a DfE scheme, currently focusing on four curriculum subjects. This is a schools led process. Likewise SA’s fed back their thoughts about the Ofsted consultation and new Inspection Framework.
Stephen Hull of the British Council discussed their progressing work with the Global Learning Programme that NATRE is involved with. This has been extended to four other SA’s. It was agreed that there should be a conference regarding this work.
The Early Careers Framework was discussed looking at how this work is to be implemented and how this would be supportive to new teachers and would this be beneficial to the retention of new teachers.
- Global learning
Connecting classrooms with Global learning has received funding from DFID. ATRE are one of the subject associations supporting this work. Fiona Moss met with the other subject associations to hear about the opportunities this offers schools and to offer relevant case studies and resources. See here for more details.
- Response to the consultation on the new Ofsted framework
NATRE worked with several subject associations and RE stakeholders before submitting a formal response to the consultation on the new Ofsted framework for inspection.
Working with the DfE we:
· drafted some suggested text to illustrate the contribution of Religious Education to the Respectful School Communities Self-Review and Signposting tool publication by Department for Education.
· Secured a robust response from the DfE to a member question about schools diverting time for RE to the teaching of other subjects.
· Responded to an academy trust that inaccurately claimed that their funding agreement did not require the teaching of RE
- NATRE met with David Perfect from the Equality and Human Rights Commission to discuss our work on withdrawal and non-compliance in schools.
- Meeting with Ruth Peacock from the Religion and Media Centre discussing how we can help RE be better represented in the media.
- RE Policy Unit meeting (NATRE, RE Today, Religious Education Council)
- from this we have published social media postcards on the new Ofsted framework and the media interviews about RE in the new framework.
- Deborah Weston has also written the much shared piece on RE and Ofsted that sits on our news pages.
-We have also sent out a short survey which has harvested information to better target and advertise to possible ITE students for RE (secondary).
- Meeting with Mike Kane (Labour MP) in Parliament. Mike is the Shadow Schools Minister. Rudi Eliott Lockhart (REC CEO) and Fiona Moss (NATRE CEO) talked with him for over an hour. He was very interested in ensuring that RE played a full part in the education curriculum. Before becoming an MP he spent some time as a Primary school teacher and RE subject leader in a community primary school in the North West.
- Current NATRE Chair, Ben Wood, and former Chair, Ed Pawson gave interviews to a wide range of radio stations about the new Ofsted framework and its implications for teaching of RE
- Ofsted: Representatives of NATRE, along with other secondary teachers of RE from across the country met with the HMI for RE and other officials from Ofsted to discuss the implications of the new framework for RE. Meetings of this group will continue over the next few months.
- Zoe Keens has met with the National Governors Association and the National Association of Head Teachers on behalf of NATRE.
- NATRE Executive Steering Group met in London on 11th May. Matters under discussion included NATRE affiliated local groups, the New2RE programme for 2019, the Primary1000 project, the RE Network Ambassadors, meetings with Ofsted and the DfE and preparations for attending the Conservative and Labour conferences in September.
- Zoe Keens attended a meeting of the Council for Subject Associations on our behalf
- NATRE Executive met on 8th June in London. The group worked on advise for teachers and schools on the new Ofsted framework (to be published soon), a document pointing to sources of guidance for curriculum planning, and a toolkit for complaints about schools who do not meet their statutory requirement to teach RE. – do we have a standard NATRE Exec meeting picture we could use here?
- Professional RE Group (PREG) met on June 18th, including representatives of NATRE, the National Assocation of SACREs (NASACRE), Association of University Lecturers in RE (AULRE), Theology and Religious Studies UK (TRS-UK), the Association of RE Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants (AREIAC) and the REC. This group provides an opportunity for the different organisations to share priorities and explore areas of collaboration.
- Shared Space project – members of the NATRE Executive contributed to a short video shown to colleagues in Hong Kong who are taking part in the Shared Space project.
- Ben Wood (NATRE Chair) spoke at the AREIAC (Association of RE Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants) conference in Manchester about the challenges of changing an RE curriculum, focussing on practical ways that difficult decisions about writing a curriculum can be made.
- Meeting with Jess Phillips (Labour MP) in Parliament. Rudi Eliott Lockhart (REC CEO) and Fiona Moss (NATRE CEO) met with Jess (who has an A* at GCSE) to discuss the future of RE. Jess has actively supported and promoted high quality RE in the past and at this meeting plans were made to continue for us to work together to help ensure that all pupils are given good RE.
- Data on examination entries analysed by the Religious Education Council and NATRE is published, noting the impact of government decisions on the numbers of pupils taking examinations in RE. Along with other published data (see below), representatives of the REC and NATRE use these findings in meetings with Ofsted, the DfE and others.
- NATRE again publishes data to help with analysis of GCSE and A level exam results for secondary schools. This data is useful for those writing examination reports as it provides information from a wide variety of sources relevant to this task.
- NATRE Secondary Survey
Findings from this year’s secondary survey were published, noting the continuing and increasing problem of schools, especially academies, not teaching RE at KS4. This information is taken from a survey of nearly 700 secondary schools, and cross referenced with other information such as the DfE School Workforce Data provides a powerful tool to take to meetings with the DfE and others.
- Party Political Conferences
Representatives of NATRE along with colleagues from RE Today and the Religious Education Council attended the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences, meeting with MPs, Lords, Councilors and party members to discuss the value of RE and its importance for all students.
- Media work
Representatives of NATRE, including former Chair Ed Pawson, current Chair, Ben Wood and CEO, Fiona Moss have appeared on BBC local radio, Premier Radio, UCB and BBC Radio4 to talk about provision for RE in schools, particularly in response to the NATRE Secondary Survey press release mentioned above.
- Parliamentary questions
Working together with the REC and RE Today, NATRE collaborates with supportive MPs to ask questions in Parliament of Ministers. One such example is from Mike Kane MP, Shadow Education Minister.
- Challenging the quality of RE provision
NATRE works closely alongside a number of individuals, including teachers and parents, who wish to challenge the level and quality of provision of RE in specific schools. Furthermore, NATRE works with the DfE, OfSTED and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to make officials and politicians aware of the challenges and issues raised in schools such as these. Please note that NATRE has a policy of not publicly naming the schools in question.
Department for Education
Deborah Weston (NATRE research officer) and Fiona Moss (NATRE CEO) regularly meet with the DfE to discuss a variety issues including compliance, the right of withdrawal and teacher training. As a result of these meetings, the guidance on RE in academies and free schools has been updated and placed in a more prominent place on the DfE website.
NATRE regularly meets with representatives of OfSTED to discuss issues related to the inspection of RE in schools. The new framework is welcomed by NATRE and early signs are that some schools are having the lack of RE provision challenged by inspectors. Examples of comments in primary schools and in secondary schools can be found by following the links.
Advice on the implications of new framework is available to members here.
In addition, members of NATRE Exec and others regularly meet to discuss the implementation of the new Framework. Another meeting will be held in November.
- Religious Education Council
At the second regular general meeting held in November at the East London Mosque, it was important to hear about the work going on in Wales and to meet with representatives of faith and belief communities. We also heard about progress that has been made in some areas of the recommendations from the Commission on RE.
We secured a meeting with RE HMI Mark Quinn and also Matthew Purves Deputy Director Ofsted in November to discuss our analysis of the inspection of RE. It was useful to discuss the strengths of the new framework and some areas that need development. We are working with Ofsted to ensure that all available data regarding RE in schools, is easily available to inspectors. The data submitted by schools as part of the school census is potentially useful to Ofsted in discussions about the breadth (or narrowing) of the curriculum in general and has the potential to flag subjects that are being omitted such as RE, but others too. Further discussions about deep dives in RE and training of inspectors. There were discussions about the number of deep dives in RE being carried out.
- RE Policy Unit
(A strategic partnership between NATRE, RE Today and the RE Council) In November, we had the opportunity to work with Ruth Peacock from the religion and media centre on educating, informing and influencing the media around RE.
Ahead of the General Election, there was a period of purdah, meaning meetings with ministers and officials within government do not take place.
- Jonathan Gullis MP
In the December 2019 general election, RE teacher Jonathan Gullis was elected MP for Stoke-on-Trent North. He referred to his past work in school in this parliamentary statement:
NATRE will be working with Mr Gullis, and are hopeful that he will attend the Stoke-on-Trent RE Student Debate.
- Council for Subject Associations (CfSA)
NATRE has worked with colleagues from other subject associations to produce a digital booklet detailing key information about what each subject association offers. This booklet will be provided free of charge to all ITE students and sent to all schools. With particular thanks to RE Today CEO Zoë Keens who has been instrumental in driving this project forward.
- Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)
NATRE CEO, Fiona Moss, NATRE Chair, Ben Wood and RE Today CEO, Zoë Keens met with ASCL’s Curriculum and Inspection Specialist, Steve Rollett to discuss the role of subject associations in promoting high quality teaching and learning, and to explore ways in which NATRE and ASCL can work together to support school leaders and teachers of RE.
- RE Policy Unit
In February we were pleased to note that recruitment into training for secondary RE teaching has improved significantly. See table below:
*percentage change from previous year
There is no doubt that the subject knowledge enhancement courses and increased bursaries that we campaigned for have had an impact on these figures.
- Department for Education
Officials at the DfE are continuing to support us in dealing with requests for support from Headteachers and Principals as well as cases of alleged non-compliance raised by parents and SACREs. We are most pleased to report, that following a formal complaint, the provision for RE provided at one Academy (and by implication – others in the same MAT following the same programme), was found not to meet the requirements of their funding agreement with the DfE. Further details of this case will be reported in due course.
- Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb MP
Deborah Weston, representing NATRE, along with Rudi Eliott Lockhart from the RE Council attended a very positive meeting with the Minister for School Standards on 26th February. Discussion centred around the best ways to ensure high standards of RE in all schools. We hope to be able to report in more detail in due course.
The immediate impact of the Covid-19 lockdown was the cancellation of a number of scheduled meetings with officials at the DfE. Many of these were rescheduled over the coming months.
Dr Richard Kueh took up his role as HMI and National Subject Lead for Religious Education at Ofsted. Richard is well known to many in the RE community, and NATRE has a good relationship with Dr. Kueh. Since taking up this position, there have been several meetings and phone calls between Richard and NATRE representatives.
NATRE Executive members also contribute to the Ofsted subject panel which exists to discuss issues of inspection.
NATRE representatives have had frequent meetings with Ofqual since the decision was made to cancel 2020 exams in favour of Centre Assessed Grades. Some these have been within larger meetings with other subject associations, some have been on an individual basis.
Further meetings with Ofqual were undertaken, with queries from RE teachers being raised with Ofqual on the process of Centre Assessed Grades for 2020.
As attention began to turn to arrangements for examinations in 2021, NATRE continued to have positive dialogue with Ofqual, raising concerns of members and contributing to Ofqual’s consultation process.
New curriculum in Wales
NATRE responded to the consultation on the new Wales curriculum.
Luke Pollard MP (Plymouth, Sutton and Davenport) asked a written parliamentary question of the Secretary of State for Education on the provision for Religious Education. NATRE, as part of the RE Policy Unit, works with MPs from across the House of Commons on issues related to RE.
There was a further meeting of the OFSTED subject panel.
GCSE and A level grades
The dramatic events surrounding GCSE and A level grades reached their peak, with NATRE criticizing the government for their poor decision making.
Chair of NATRE, Ben Wood was interviewed on BBC local radio discussing the impact of the grade decision on students and teachers.
Representatives of NATRE met with a senior civil servant and our usual contacts from the DFE discussing a series of issues including exams, complaints about RE, support for teachers, support for RE in al schools and religion and worldviews.
The DfE statistics team shared the latest set of school level data with NATRE in accordance with the memorandum of understanding agreed a few years ago. This allows us to work with SACREs to help them monitor compliance and discuss our findings with Ofsted and other agencies.
Over the last two years, NATRE has supported a parent in pursuing a complaint against an academy not providing RE. The school is now providing RE for all years in line with their funding agreement.
Primary RE survey
NATRE’s most recent survey of Primary school teachers of RE was puclished. This valuable data is used in discussion with key partners at Ofsted, the DfE and in parliament.
Shadow Minister for Faiths
NATRE met with Janet Daby MP (Lewisham) for a productive meeting. As a former SACRE member, she has a good understanding of the issues relating to RE. One outcome of the meeting was the asking of an oral parliamentary question.
Council for Subject Associations (CSFA)
Members of the CFSA including a NATRE representative met with OFSTED to discuss concerns about expertise in ITE inspections. It was a very useful meeting and OFSTED explained more about their training for inspectors. There will be further meetings.
HMI and Ofsted
Dr Richard Kueh, HMI and National Subject Lead for Religious Education was warmly welcomed by the NATRE Executive Committee to discuss how Ofsted sees inspection in RE and how this impacts on questions of curriculum development.
NATRE, the REC and RE Today, working together as the RE Policy Unit has secured substantial grant funding for its work. The funding will support the aim to secure high quality education in Religion and Worldviews for all pupils in all schools, taught by well qualified and trained teachers. We are working with a range of stakeholders including parliamentarians, teachers, headteachers, governors as well as the media. Further updates to follow.