New Study - Does RE work?

Posted by: Rosemary, 22 February 2012

NATRE welcomes the publication today of ‘Does Religious Education work? An analysis of the aims, practices and models of effectiveness in Religious Education in the UK’, a three-year project funded by the AHRC and the ESRC and led by James Conroy, Professor of Religious and Philosophical Education at the University of Glasgow.

This comprehensive overview of the state of Religious Education across the UK and produces conclusions which resonate with NATRE’s own experience of working with and on behalf of teachers of the subject.

Professor Conroy says: ‘Even where RE is taught magnificently, it is so against the odds. RE in Britain is under-resourced, torn between competing aims, and has become overburdened by having to include other subjects (from sex to citizenship). Whilst governments insist on RE’s importance in theory, they marginalise it in practice – as Michael Gove has recently done by refusing to treat it as a core subject.’

However it is because of what Professor Conroy’s study observed in schools where RE is done well that he is quite categoric that RE continues to have an important place in the curriculum of all schools: ‘What they reveal is that good RE is about something absolutely fundamental: a space for serious, critical exploration of the meanings and values by which we live. To live good lives, individually and together, we need to be able to make sense of our world and ourselves – and RE offers the only place in the curriculum where that can still be done systematically.’

NATRE receives many emails from teachers whose comments echo the findings of Professor Conroy’s study including that ‘in most state schools £1.00 or less is spent on each child per annum on materials and books for RE. And even when RE is included in the examination portfolio of a school, teachers are too often expected to deliver the GCSE/Standard Grade syllabus in a shorter time than that allowed for other subjects.’

We know that £50 per year is a common budget for RE in primary schools. Successive Secretaries of State have encouraged schools to join their professional associations for mutual support, professional development and to improve their subject expertise, however many teachers cannot afford even this on the budget available to them!

Despite being compulsory for all pupils on the school roll (including academies and free schools) the DfE’s own data show that the average number of pupils in Year 11 entered for any Religious Studies GCSE remains at around 50% this year, and that some 40 academies had no entries at all for Year 11 in 2011.

NATRE hopes that the discussion about Religious Education generated by the publication of this study will prompt serious consideration by government of how it can act to support the survival and positive development of the subject before it is too late.

For further information:
Ed Pawson, Chair, NATRE
Tel: 0121 430 2959; Email:

Rosemary Rivett, Executive Officer NATRE,
Tel: 0121 430 2959; Email:

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