Religious education given Ofsted boost

Mon 03 Jun 2019
By Marcus Jones

There's hope the teaching of religious education (RE) in schools will improve thanks to changes made in the way regulator Ofsted inspects.

Campaigners for better RE say the new school inspection framework will put more pressure on schools to prioritise the subject.

It's understood two-day long inspections will now put greater emphasis on the broad curriculum while a small number of subjects will also be chosen as a focus for examination. These subjects could include religious education.

Ben Wood from the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) told Premier this is a good change of direction.


He said: "Ofsted are really pushing the sense that they want a curriculum to be broad.

"I think there is a sense for people, both in education and the wider public of what's gone on in schools has been narrowed recently and there's a number of reasons for that.

"But what Ofsted are doing here is a saying that school curriculum has to be broad.

"And that means that while English, maths and science are important so is RE, and history, and geography, and art, and music, and PE, they're all important, they all have a role to play.

"It's very heartening to hear Ofsted saying that within that curriculum, RE has a crucial role to play."

Guidelines for inspections now require schools to ensure pupils can reflect their own religious beliefs as well as having knowledge and respect for others.

Schools will also have to prove that teachers have expert knowledge of the subjects that they teach.

Ben Wood, who also teaches RE in a secondary school told Premier that's good news.

"I know I've got to have good answers to questions (from inspectors)," he said.

"I know that the quality of RE in my school has to be really good so that if an officer inspector comes asking me about why I do certain things in certain orders, or why I cover more of this religion than that religion, or why we deal with these philosophical questions, and others, I have answers to those questions."

The development comes after a report by the Religious Education Council and NATRE in 2016 showed one in four (28 per cent) state secondary schools were struggling to meet their legal obligation to teach pupils about major religions and other worldviews.

Just a year later, an independent Commission on RE found that this figure had risen to one in three (33 per cent) of state secondary schools.

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