RE's 5 per cent 'will need many more staff'

17th February 1995 at 00:00
Nicholas Pyke finds the Archbishop of York feels modern education is losing its way in abstraction.

Sir Ron Dearing's much-praised recommendation that religious education should occupy 5 per cent of the curriculum will be meaningless unless the Government recruits many more RE teachers, according to one of the most influential professional groups.

The RE Council, comprising teachers, academics and representatives from faith groups, believes that this year's plans to train only 510 teachers will leave the subject seriously short of teachers.

"Relative to the previous and projected increase for national curriculum subjects 1993-96, those for RE remain abysmally low," says the council. RE remains the subject with the lowest number of trainees.

The RE Council recommends that the Teacher Training Agency, the new body responsible for funding training courses and setting recruitment targets, should introduce special incentives to potential teachers of RE similar to thosein science and modern languages.

A 1993 report for the council and the St Gabriel's Foundation by academic Brian Gates found a substantial shortage of RE teachers which has been traditionally masked by schools' belief that the subject need not be taught by specialists. There have been comparatively few adverts for new teachers, said the report, and as a result the Government has maintained a "fiction" that there is no shortage.

A new briefing paper from the RE Council suggests that only 38 per cent of RE teachers have relevant degrees in the subject. Only PE has a smaller proportion. English, geography, history, maths, modern languages, music and science all have between half and two- thirds. The Government has argued that the root of the RE shortage lies in the number of specialists promoted out of the classroom.

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