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RE teachers hope for English Baccalaureate changes

image captionSchools face a new measure in the form of the English Baccalaureate

Teachers of religious education have welcomed the prospect of further debate about what should be included in the new English Baccalaureate.

It follows comments by Education Secretary Michael Gove that he will "take on board" concerns about GCSE subjects excluded from this measure.

At present, RE is not included in the five required subject areas.

The RE Council wants RE included as a humanity subject, alongside history or geography.

The new English Baccalaureate at GCSE level requires pupils to achieve at least a grade C at English, maths, science, a language and either history or geography.

The aim is to ensure that more pupils leave school with qualifications in these core subjects.

It also addresses concerns that league table rankings can conceal that many pupils have achieved their GCSE grades in less academic subjects.

League tables

For the first time, the league tables published this week showed the percentages of pupils achieving this threshold in schools. This also revealed that only one in six pupils made the grade in all five subject areas.

There have been protests, with particularly vociferous complaints from independent schools, that this is too narrow a selection of subjects on which to measure school performance.

They argued that top marks in many academically-rigorous subjects would not be reflected in this new measure.

But Brian Gates, chair of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, has welcomed comments from Mr Gove as suggesting a "readiness to reconsider the subject composition of the English Baccalaureate".

"There is widespread support for including religious studies as a mainstream humanities subject," said Mr Gates.

Mr Gove, speaking on Friday, had said: "There are one or two points that are being made about perhaps one or two qualifications that might count within the five pillars and I will look at that.

"That's not to say that I'm going to change my mind, but any fair point that is made, in a constructive spirit about how you can improve league tables, I will always take on board."

A spokesman for the Department for Education indicated that the principle of the Baccalaureate was not open for debate, but that there had always been a willingness to listen to arguments about how the contents could be improved.

For instance, it was suggested there could be International GCSEs which could be accredited which might later be included as options within the five subject areas.

The department also said that polling research showed that public opinion backed the five subject areas defined as the core requirements for the Baccalaureate.

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