INSPECTORS are not checking that local authorities are offering RE in schools, according to new research.
Although outside the national curriculum, RE remains a compulsory subject and is the only one which is the responsibility of local rather than central government.
But according to research published today, the number of inspection reports which even mention this duty has dropped by a dramatic 65 percentage points in the past two years. In 1998, around 80 per cent of inspection reports commented on how well councils were fulfilling their statutory RE obligations. This is true of only 15 per cent of the 20 reports published so far this year.
The research was carried out by Dr John Gay, director of the Culham College Institute, a religious education development and research agency.
He believes the results illustrate a worrying trend that will inevitably ead to a lower standard of religious teaching. "There are so many things that LEAs are being inspected on that they are not going to put as much effort into something they know they will not get pulled up on," he said.
Alan Brown, RE officer for the Church of England's board of education, said:
"These findings are very worrying to everyone concerned with RE."
Stephen Orchard, chair of the RE council in England and Wales, added: "We know that some authorities are better than others in their provision of religious education and we had hoped the inspections of LEAs would help even out this difference."
A spokesperson for the Office for Standards in Education said: "The vast majority are fulfilling this duty, which is why there is not much specific mention of it. Religious education teaching is also examined through the school inspection process."