Dear John: Can teachers refuse to teach RE?


I’m a Geography teacher but have not taught RE or life skills before. I am worried that I do not have the required subject knowledge or training to be able to teach these new subjects effectively without a lot of extra work. Is RE a subject that a teacher can refuse to teach?

Any advice or help would be great!


Although RE has changed greatly in the past few years, and there are many good resources around to help those teaching it, you can still refuse to do so - see bottom of the page in this link to Teachernet. The ability for parents to withdraw is better known that that for teachers. This assumes you aren’t teaching in a school with a religious affiliation whereby signing on you waive your right to withdraw.

The other issue is about training, and no teacher should be required to teach a new subject without some adequate preparation during their paid time. Whilst the odd class might be acceptable, a major change in timetable would be something to send you to consult your professional association as regards to whether you were being treated unfairly and set up to fail. However, with falling rolls and tighter budgets, your options may be limited if the head takes a strong line and suggest that they have too many geography teachers. They would still need to explain why you were picked out for any treatment that was different to other teachers. It may be time to go and have a chat with the head, and make notes on what is said in case you need them later.


John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including a brief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and hosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.