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An education in Religion and Worldviews
An education in Religion and Worldviews

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4.1 Ensuring high-quality RE is taught in schools

A photograph of a teacher with a group of children.

Old assumptions about content and relevance of the subject do not necessarily reflect current realities. According to a recent representative survey most people in England believe that Religious Education in schools should:

  • help young people gain a better understanding of their own beliefs (69%)
  • foster the mutual understanding of different beliefs among young people (71%)
  • provide young people with the opportunity to learn more about other people, beliefs, worldviews and cultures (73%)
  • encourage young people to openly discuss their beliefs with others (69%)
  • help young people critically evaluate their own beliefs (65%)
  • help young people critically evaluate the beliefs of others (65%).

A clear majority see Religious Education in schools as offering important civic and social benefits; as well as similar respondents affirming that RE should be reflecting the diversity of religious and non-religious perspectives that are part of public discourse today (Wright, 2022).

However, there are different challenges in local contexts in ensuring the national entitlement for a high-quality education in religion and worldviews can be met. There are also some shared national challenges.

After considering some of the possible barriers to ensuring every child in English state-funded schools has a quality experience of Religious Education, you will be provided with some resources to help encourage this outcome in your own context.

Activity 4

There are quite a few challenges in ensuring that all students receive their statutory entitlement to good quality RE. Can you think of what some of these challenges might be?

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There are a number of challenges for the provision of good RE teaching in schools. Some of these include issues of ‘perception’ including:

  • negative public perception of religion in general
  • people of faith fearing their tradition will be weakened by RE teaching
  • misunderstanding of RE as seeking to convert their children
  • assumption that RE is a non-academic and unimportant subject
  • assumption that RE does not directly contribute to future employment prospects.

Other challenges are more structural such as:

  • a lack of specialist teachers and a lack of support and funding teacher training
  • the time allocated to RE in the curriculum and, often, its conflation into other subjects such as PHSE, as well as some schools not teaching it at all
  • the unique status of RE as a non-national curriculum subject, instead determined by Locally Agreed Syllabuses
  • the exclusion of RE from the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), the subjects the government considers ‘keep young people’s options open for further study and future careers’ (DoE, 2019).

If you want to do more to ensure that the RE provision in schools is high quality, there are simple things you can do and lots of resources to help you. Some of these are listed on the next page.

Good quality RE is not about absolute agreement or consensus, but it is about valuing dialogue and mutual respect and preparing our children to be better able to face future challenges in our diverse and interconnected world.