Most Brits don’t think secondary school RE is important, poll finds

Posted: Thu, 20th Oct 2022

Most Brits don’t think secondary school RE is important, poll finds

Over half of British adults do not think it is important for religious education to be taught in secondary schools.

Almost three-fifths (58%) of British adults said religious studies is "not very important" (31%) or "not at all important (27%) in secondary education, in response to a YouGov poll in October.

The findings come in the wake of RE Policy Unit analysis earlier this year which showed 34% of academies do not include RE on the school timetable. Furthermore, 500 secondary schools are teaching zero hours of dedicated RE in Year 11.

Previous polling found out of a list of 18 subjects, respondents ranked religious studies 15th in terms of being important (40%), with only drama, classics and Latin being positioned lower.

Criticism of RE in England

The National Secular Society has consistently warned RE is out of date and often fails to be broad, balanced and inclusive.

Current legislation dates back to 1944 and requires schools with a religious character to teach RE in accordance with the beliefs of the religion or denomination of the school.

RE is the only compulsory subject that is locally determined and is largely controlled by religious interest groups even in nonreligious schools. Representatives of non-religious worldviews are often excluded or denied voting rights on RE committees.

In Wales, RE has been renamed 'religion, values and ethics' and must teach religious and non-religious worldviews equally.

NSS: RE "outdated and unpopular"

NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said: "The time has come to move away from religious education being a mandatory school subject under the influence of religious authorities.

"Schools have an important role to play developing young people's critical thinking and understanding of religious diversity. There are much better ways to achieve this than through the outdated and unpopular model of religious education."

"Existing curriculum requirements, especially citizenship education, should be enhanced to promote an understanding of society's diverse religious and non-religious landscape whilst at the same time preparing pupils to consider and understand their future rights and obligations as citizens."

Hat-tip: Clive Field, Counting Religion in Britain, October 2022.

Image: Shutterstock

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Tags: RE