National curriculum mooted for 'poor' RE

15th June 2007 at 01:00
THE QUALITY of religious education teaching is poor in too many schools and fundamental changes to the way the curriculum is designed need to be considered, a report by Ofsted is expected to say.

The findings, to be published on Sunday, will criticise RE for being of variable quality across England.

Inspectors are expected to re-commend a review of the way the curriculum is set. It is currently drawn up separately in each local authority. One option could be to introduce the first national curriculum for the subject.

Ofsted's concerns will echo those of the RE Council, which has raised the issue with the Department for Education and Skills.

A recent report submitted to Lord Adonis, the schools minister, said: "The department should establish a national review body to consider whether the current statutory arrangements and structure for RE in England are fit for purpose."

It said the merits of a national curriculum for the subject should be considered and it questioned whether post-16 RE was sufficient to meets the needs of a diverse society.

The Ofsted report is also expected to look into whether the subject is being used effectively in the Government's drive for community cohesion between faith groups.

A voluntary national framework for the curriculum was introduced in 2004, but concerns have been raised that it has not been widely adopted.

The Rev Dr John Gay, the RE spokesman for the Church of England and a member of the RE Council, said a legal requirement needed to be imposed.

"We strongly support a national review body to look at the structure. We feel it is vital for the future development of the subject. We have always supported a national framework having a more statutory basis. It is vital that RE looks like other subject areas."

Currently, the syllabus is drawn up in each local authority every five years by groups known as agreed syllabus conferences. The quality of provision is then monitored by Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education (Sacre), which advise local authorities on religious education and collective worship.

Dr Gay said the RE Council proposals would result in the syllabus conferences being scrapped. But Sacre would continue to exist to monitor quality and as a forum for inter-faith dialogue.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Education Service said: "We are committed to improving standards of RE. We welcome opportunities to discuss the findings of the report among our community, with Ofsted and with others so that this exercise is helpful to all."

A spokesman for the DfES said standards in RE were showing steady improvement.

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