Applications for RE teacher training have dropped by almost 40 per cent since last year, endangering the subject, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales has said.
For entry into initial teacher training in 2017, only 405 RE places were filled, making up 63 per cent of the government target of 643 places.
This represents a year-on-year drop of 38 per cent.
The figure is higher than average for teacher recruitment: recent data published by universities-application service Ucas reveals that application numbers are down by a third compared with a year ago.
The RE Council wants to see the government introduce higher bursaries for trainee RE teachers, in order to encourage more people to teach the subject.
Currently, a trainee RE teacher with a first-class degree will receive a £9,000 bursary, and a trainee with a 2.1 degree will receive £4,000. By contrast, trainees for geography and Classics can receive grants of £26,000.
The RE Council is also campaigning for funding for subject-knowledge-enhancement courses, which would enable graduates with a wide variety of degrees to apply for RE teacher training.
Kathryn Wright, from Culham St Gabriel’s Trust, a charity working to support RE, which is leading the campaign, said: “Showcasing the intellectual challenge of the subject, and highlighting the rewards for teachers who have the opportunity to tackle complex and sensitive issues with teenagers, really resonates.
“We’re hoping to interest more would-be RE teachers, who have a rich understanding of – and interest in – the subject.”
Government figures have revealed that more than half – 55 per cent – of staff teaching RE in schools have no post-A-level qualification in the subject.