GCSE candidates up this year, despite complaints of underfunding

THE number of pupils taking religious studies at GCSEs in England and Wales this year rose by 0.6% to 253,225 – in contrast to the decline in the number of people taking the subject at A level (News , August 18). But activists say the topic is underfunded and have reiterated their calls for a national plan for it.

The Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) attributed the increase to increased attendance on a GCSE short course in RS: 18.5% more pupils l followed this year (18,257) than last year (15,672). However, the number of applicants registering for the RS GCSE in Wales fell by 11% (compared to an overall drop of 5% in the number of pupils registering for the GCSE).

The number of students obtaining grades 7-9 – equivalent to A and A* – in RS has fallen by 1% on average, according to data published by School week noted. The drop in these grades awarded in all subjects was 3%.

The overall pass rate fell by four percentage points, although, as with A-level results last week, the drop was expected, after Ofqual’s decision to reverse the sharp rise in top grades awarded during the pandemic, when results were determined by algorithm and teacher assessment.

The REC and the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) reiterated their calls for a national plan for SR and drew attention to the lack of funding for the subject.

The Tory MP who first proposed the intervention, House Father Sir Petter Bottomley, said on Thursday the rise in people taking RS showed it was “very popular at GCSEs”, and therefore “we must not let the young people down”. continuing to starve the subject of funding and leadership.

He continued, “Schools and colleges need a national plan that sets out a modern and relevant curriculum for education in religion and world religions and cultures. Generations of students should understand the spiritual development and interfaith understanding that is necessary to contribute fully to modern British society.

REC President Sarah Lane Cawte said: “At its best, SR is one of the most rewarding and academic subjects in the curriculum. Yet, sadly, I cannot think of another subject that has ever attracted such a large cohort of students, but received so little corresponding government support,” she said Thursday.

This was reiterated by NATRE President Katie Freeman, who praised the hard work of teachers and called on the government to “support their hard work with a properly funded national plan. This will ensure that every young person has access to an excellent RE teacher, armed with the best evidence-based curriculum that will allow them to take their place in modern society.

Among those who opened their GCSE results on Thursday were pupils from Lichfield Cathedral School, where 84% of pupils achieved top marks, almost three times the national average.

As the results were released on Thursday morning, the Archbishop of York urged people to pray “for young people who may be feeling anxious about the aftermath”.

Writing on Twitter, he continued: “Help us to value every young person and allow them to thrive and become what God wants them to be.”

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