Schools losing their religion

Written by Luke Thompson.

Religious education is one of the worst taught subjects in Lincoln schools, according to a public body.

Religious Education is among the worst taught subjects taught at schools. Photo: Jonathan Ah Kit (via Flickr)
Religious Education is among the worst taught subjects taught at schools. Photo: Jonathan Ah Kit (via Flickr)
The Standards Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) is appealing to their partners at Lincolnshire County Council to assist them in improving the situation.

This follows a national report by Ofsted in October which discovered six in every ten pupils, in the UK, are failing religious education at secondary level.

Wendy Harrison, religious education adviser at the Council for British Teachers (CfBT), said:

“Many schools do not understand the legal obligations over them when it comes to RE – some of them are actually confused as to the subject’s purpose.”

Mrs Harrison – who is also on the board of the Lincoln-based SACRE – carried out inspections of schools in the Lincolnshire area.

She said: “Most primary and secondary schools had non-specialists teaching the subject.”

“In a short test I set students and teachers, one educator did not get a single question right.”

Mrs Harrison said that the children were suffering because of this and could not even identify simple spiritual symbols such as a crucifix.

She added that teachers have told her that these shortcomings are a consequence of a lack of support from SACRE and the local authority.

SACRE have conceded that funding has been “very limited” in recent years, which is why they are trying to convince the county council to provide more money for the training of teachers.

Chairman of SACRE, Neville McFarlane, said the syllabus for the subject must also be changed as it is “fragmented and inconsistent.”

He said: “With the increasing number of academies popping up in the area, we have less influence in how much time they choose to dedicate to the teaching of the subject.”

“We must produce a more academic and standardised course structure that these schools will want to teach.

“For this we need more administrative and financial support from the council.”

The concerns of Mr McFarlane and his committee are reflected in the opinions of several local students.

A former Lincoln school student, Rebecca Callaby, 21 said:

“I finished my GCSEs a couple of years back now but, it was always seen as a ‘doss’ subject then and it still is now. We didn’t care about what was being taught as it didn’t seem to give us any skills for the future.”

SACRE however are adamant that the subject is vitally important in teaching the values of an increasingly multicultural society. They also believe it is important to give children the choice to access a spiritual lifestyle.

Dr Timothy Jenkins, expert in Theology and Religious Studies at University of Cambridge also stresses the subject’s importance. He said:

“Religious education lays a foundation for courses like mine. Religion and the values surrounding it, such as tolerance, is an incredibly important study in understanding today’s wider society.”

Members of SACRE have proposed writing to Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to advise local councillors to invest more time and money in the subject, after he was quoted in the media as having “not done enough” to improve the national failures in the subject.

Lincolnshire Councillor Charles Strange has assured the group that he will do all he can to draw more attention to the cause.

One Response to Schools losing their religion

  1. Martin Henderson says:

    Don’t worry Dr Jenkins. Children can be taught morals and tolerance without religion being involved. (In fact going by the examples of Northern Ireland, and the constant attacks between Sunnis and Shias, they will probably be better off being taught morals and tolerance without religion being involved).