Religious Studies remains a popular GCSE despite specialist teacher recruitment challenge
Quarter of a million students risk being neglected" says Father of the House, as teacher applications fall.
The number of students in England and Wales taking a GCSE course in Religious Studies has remained stable at 253,906, up by a margin of 0.3% from last year.
The slight rise in entries comes as a campaign supported by cross-party politicians intends to attract a new generation of teachers to the subject, focusing on the restoration of training bursaries. The latest UCAS data showed applicants to train to teach the subject had fallen by one-third.
The number of GCSE entries this year means that RS is taken by more students than Business Studies, Design and Technology, and Art and Design at GCSE.
Despite this, the number of hours of RE taught by teachers with no post-A level qualification remains one of the highest at 26%. Half of teachers delivering RE lessons spend most of their timetables teaching a different subject. This has led subject leaders and politicians to reissue their call for a National Plan for the subject and for the reinstatement of bursaries for trainee RE teachers.
Sarah Lane Cawte, Chair of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), said:
“RS is one of the most popular subjects at GCSE, yet bizarrely it does not receive the corresponding funding and support. Teacher training applications have not recovered since the axing of the bursary in 2021, and no money has been spent on the subject for five years. We want an even distribution of funding across the curriculum to ensure young people taking the subject receive their fair share of support from the government.”
Katie Freeman, Chair of the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE), said:
“An RE lesson offers a unique and much needed place for young people to explore life’s big questions, build societal cohesion and contribute to their spiritual and academic development. It’s a real travesty that one of the most popular subjects at GCSE has not received fair allocation of government support to ensure every young person in every school receives this opportunity.”
Father of the House, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, who first called for a National Plan for the subject after chairing a parliamentary roundtable on its future last year, also responded to the results:
“RE continues to play a pivotal part in the education of young people across the country, allowing them to understand and academically engage with some of the moral and theological debates that continue to inform our society. A National Plan would scale out a modern and relevant curriculum in the faiths, cultures and beliefs of modern Britain taught by highly trained and committed teachers. Neglecting the subject in this fashion does a disservice to the quarter of a million young people who take it at GCSE every year.”
The subject results in full were:
England and Wales*
England and Wales RS overall, up 0.3%, by 847, from 253,059 to 253,906
England and Wales RS full course, up 0.1%, by 319, from 231,730 to 232,049
England and Wales RS short course up 2.5%, by 618, from 21,239 to 21,857
England RS overall, up 0.4%, by 1,009, from 240,240 to 241,249
England RS full course, up 0.2%, by 429, from 221,983 to 222,412
England RS short course up 3.2%, by 580, from 18,257 to 18,837
Wales RS overall, down 1.3%, by 162 from 12,819 to 12,657
Wales RS full course, down 1.1%, by 110, from 9,747 to 9,637
Wales RS short course, down 1.7%, by 52, from 3,072 to 3,020
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Notes for editors:
*Data taken from main Joint Council for Qualification (JCQ) tables for each nation. However, it is not possible to make a direct comparison as the methodologies used are different.
Religious Education Council of England and Wales
Established in 1973, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) brings together over 60 national organisations. These comprise academic and professional associations specialising in religious education, as well as individual religion and belief organisations representative of the range of communities found nationally.
National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE)
NATRE is the subject teacher association for RE professionals in primary and secondary schools and higher education, providing a representative voice at national level and publications and courses to promote professional development. NATRE’s Executive consists of a majority of serving teachers from primary and secondary schools who are elected for a three-year term of service.