A new dawn
Two major developments have given renewed hope for religious education campaigners.
New GCSE criteria
The Government has published its long-awaited consultation on new criteria for Religious Studies at GCSE and A level.
The new criteria are designed to broaden and deepen understanding of religion, with students for the first time being required to study two religions at GCSE level. As well as studying religious texts, students will have the opportunity to learn about critiques of religion and other non-religious beliefs through the study of philosophy and ethics.
The new A level criteria will be designed to support students' progression to higher education with the study of at least one religion in depth.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said in a statement: "The new qualifications are intended to provide students with the knowledge and understanding that will prepare them for further and higher education and future employment" and that "they will be high-quality, demanding and academically rigorous qualifications".
The consultation was welcomed by the National Association of Teachers of RE and the Religious Education Council. However Joyce Miller, chair of the REC, called for the opportunity to study non-religious worldviews as well, saying that "The REC Board has agreed unanimously that the optional systematic study of a non-religious worldview should be introduced at GCSE level".
The Department for Education consultation on content closes on the 29th December at 5.00pm and the Ofqual consultation on assessment closes on the 5th January 2014. Anyone with an interest in the subject is encouraged to comment.
RE bursaries restored
After some strong campaigning by the RE community, government bursaries for trainee RE teachers have been restored for the academic year 2015-16.
The bursaries are worth £4,000 a year for students holding an upper second class degree, rising to £9,000 a year for those who have a first class degree.
The news has been welcomed by NATRE and the REC, whose members had lobbied ministers following the withdrawal of bursaries for 2013-14. Joyce Miller called it a "turning point for the subject", while chair of NATRE Ed Pawson said: "There is an indisputable need to bring more RE teachers into our schools and re-instating bursaries is only the first step towards redressing an imbalance that has existed for far too long".
A contribution to the shortfall in bursary funding this year has been provided by a one-off Common Fund of £220,000 from four charities: Culham St Gabriel’s Trust, Keswick Hall Trust, St Luke’s Foundation, St Peter’s Saltley Trust and the Jerusalem Trust.
For more information on funding for RE postgraduate teacher training, visit the Department for Education website.
The ReThinkRE campaign team