Time for the government to address the consequences of their neglect of teachers of RE?
The demands of teaching Religious Education are generally poorly understood. A teacher of RE in modern Britain, must not only understand the principal religious and non-religious worldviews, but also the diversity within and between those traditions. Fewer than a third of the 633-trainee secondary RE teachers in this academic year have a degree in Theology or Religious Studies. The rest have a first degree in anything from Management Studies and Sports Therapy to Criminology and Philosophy. (see graphic here)
This diversity in the workforce could be a strength if the route through post-graduate certificate of education and the early career of the newly qualified teacher were properly supported. The typical PGCE course (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) will include around 8 days of subject-specific work. This means the newly qualified teacher has a massive mountain to climb to reach a level of knowledge that will provide confidence in teaching the subject.
Added to these subject knowledge demands, are the expectations of the government. Teachers are charged with promoting respect and tolerance, freedom of speech, personal development of pupils and preparing children for life in modern Britain to name just a few.
Evidence from NATRE surveys shows that just under half of teachers received no subject-specific training outside school in the last academic year. In the last ten years, despite providing support such as support networks for teachers of phonics, A National Centre for Computing Education, to provide training in that area, curricular resources to reduce workload for science, history and geography teachers, the government has not invested in RE at all. There is obviously a need for a National Plan for RE as recommended by the Commission on RE, but it appears that in the eyes of the government, their responsibilities in relation to the curriculum are limited to the subjects of the English Baccalaureate. RE teachers must rely on support provided by charities.
Surely it is time for the government to step up? It is simply unacceptable to neglect teachers of RE in this way. The consequences of this neglect are there for all to see.