Religious education is blighted by “low standards” and “weak teaching”, leaving too many students with “scant knowledge and understanding of religion and belief”, according to a scathing new report by Ofsted.
While acknowledging that there have been “some improvements” over the last 10 years in how the subject is taught, the watchdog found that achievement and teaching were less than good in 60 per cent of the schools it visited in researching the report.
It is critical of both primary and secondary provision. In primaries, the report says, teaching was “not good enough because of weaknesses in teachers’ understanding of the subject, a lack of emphasis on subject knowledge, poor and fragmented curriculum planning, very weak assessment, ineffective monitoring and teachers’ limited access to effective training”.
Even at GCSE level, the majority of schools “failed to provide enough curriculum time for pupils to extend and deepen their learning sufficiently”, while most of the teaching “failed to secure the core aim of the examination specifications”.
Common complaints included insufficient focus on subject knowledge, an over-emphasis on preparing pupils for assessments or exams, and “over-structured and bureaucratic lesson planning with a limited focus on promoting effective learning”.
The report also refers to the RE’s “decline” as a result of being excluded from the English Baccalaureate basket of subjects. Although it insists that the proportion of pupils taking the subject at GCSE remains high, nearly 250 schools failed to enter a single candidate in the subject.
Religious Education Council for England and Wales said it was "not surprised" by the findings.
“We have been warning the Department for Education for some time about the poor state of religious education in many schools," John Keast, chair of the RE Council, said.
“It is now vital that the DfE works with the RE Council on putting things right. We can do better than this.”