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Vital implications for RE

I am writing to alert colleagues to a footnote slipped into the "Revised Requirements for all courses of Initial Teacher Training" (Teacher Training Agency, February 1997).

This document, currently out for consultation, stipulates under the heading "Course length and coverage" that courses training students to teach the three to eight age range must offer religious education, but "trainees may be allowed to opt out".

The justification provided is that since it is not compulsory to teach RE, teachers should not be compelled to study it. This falls down immediately since no such choice is provided for the students training for the seven to 11 age phase.

While I have great sympathy and understanding for those who choose to exercise their right not to teach RE, the students entering initial teacher training have often had very negative experiences of RE during their own schooling. I suspect many would welcome the opportunity to opt out.

It is vital that all students have an informed and high-quality input (at college) from which they can arrive at an informed decision as to whether they teach the subject or not.

The implications for RE across the country are enormous. Infant schools, in particular, will face huge pressures as fewer and fewer staff are willing and qualified to teach the subject, which is still compulsory from five to 18!

I am concerned that the implications of this move have not been thought through to their inevitable consequences. I would urge colleagues to respond to the TTA during the brief consultation period to May 8.

SUE KENDALL

Lecturer in Primary RE Goldsmiths College London SE14

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