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Call to improve RE lesson standards

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

image captionThe report wants to "secure the future" of RE

Religious education in schools in England needs to be improved, says a group of RE specialists who fear the subject is being marginalised.

The report calls for a more structured national framework for the subject and improvements in teacher training.

Earlier this month Ofsted warned that more than half of schools were failing to give pupils good RE lessons.

Report chairman John Keast says the aim is "securing the future of RE in our schools".

The study, published by the Religious Education Council for England and Wales, is an attempt to tackle the "uneven quality" of how the subject is taught in England.

Diverse society

The report proposes a curriculum framework which could be used as a "national benchmark".

This suggests how pupils should be able to find out about different religions and their beliefs, festivals and symbols.

It calls for improvements in how teachers are trained to give them more confidence in the subject.

The National Association of Teachers of RE welcomed the idea of a consistent national framework for the subject, which would work in parallel to the revised national curriculum.

"It is imperative that, in this tough age for RE, we provide teachers with a curriculum framework of high quality," said RE adviser, Lat Blaylock.

The report also suggests that the current GCSE and A-level in religious studies should be reformed.

There was controversy when the subject was not included in the GCSEs needed for the English Baccalaureate, with claims that it would lower its importance in secondary schools.

Ofsted recently published a strong criticism of how the subject was being taught.

The education watchdog said the subject should play "a key role in promoting social cohesion and the virtues of respect and empathy, which are important in our diverse society" but instead "many pupils leave school with scant subject knowledge and understanding".

"Some schools boast good and outstanding RE, yet many cannot," said Mr Keast.

"In recent years RE has fallen into a vacuum. Falling back on the safety net of statutory provision is not enough to ensure consistent high standards, strong teaching, adequate examination provision and clarity on what the subject covers.

"Having a thoroughly reconsidered national curriculum framework is a means of changing both practice and attitudes to RE."

"The modern world needs young people who are sufficiently confident in their own beliefs and values that they can respect the religious and cultural differences of others," says Education Secretary Michael Gove, in a foreword to the report.

More on this story

  • Over half of schools failing in religious education, says Ofsted