Church of England Criticizes UK Gov’t on Poor Religious Ed Standards

The Church of England has criticized the UK government for what it has deemed inadequate efforts to improve religious education.  The Church has called on the government to boost religious education standards by allocating more resources to train religious education teachers.

An attack by the Church on the government follows an Ofsted report stating that more than half of all schools have been failing pupils in their religious education.

According to the Church, religious education is an essential part of every child’s studies, and Education Secretary Michael Gove should work with religious leaders to improve religious education, a core subject in the national curriculum, writes Jamie Doward, Daniel Boffey and Charlie Latimer in The Guardian.

The Ofsted report said that religious education is increasingly important in an ever more globalized and multicultural 21st century because of the way it promotes respect and empathy. The report cites a litany of failures in the way religious education is taught, including low standards, weak teaching and a confused sense of what the subject is about.

Researchers visited the 30 primary schools and found good or outstanding knowledge of the tenets of Christianity in only five schools.

Rev Jan Ainsworth, the Church’s chief education officer at The Church of England, said they were not surprised with the report’s findings, and this detailed report “confirms all the messages we have been giving the secretary of state over the last two years.”

“The report places the blame for poor standards squarely on government policy. “In particular, the removal of support and squeeze on places for training RE teachers is a scandal and will take years to reverse. RE is still a core curriculum in church schools, and we repeat our offer to Mr. Gove to work with him.”

Ofsted has recommended Gove to push for an improvement in current GCSE examinations for the subject and in the supply and training of religious education teachers.

“Religious education in schools matters,” said Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s director of schools. “It develops children’s understanding of belief and the world in which we live. At its best, it encourages children and young people to extend their natural curiosity and prepares them for life in modern society.

“Too often we found religious education lessons being squeezed out by other subjects and children and young people leaving school with little knowledge or understanding of different religions. This just isn’t good enough when religion and belief are playing such a profound part in today’s world. Pupils deserve much better.”

The new report findings are expected to put more pressure on Gove, who has previously admitted to not doing enough to help promote the religious education subject.

Earlier this year, an inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group on religious education found that more than half of those teaching it in primary schools had no qualifications in the subject.