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Religious education ‘endangered’ in the UK as teaching applications drop

religious education teaching shortage
The government hopes offering a bursary will encourage more candidates. Source: Shutterstock.com

The Religious Education Council (REC) in the United Kingdom is calling for the government to offer significantly higher bursaries to potential RE teachers.

The council is concerned the future of religious education is in danger: in the past year, applications for RE teacher training have fallen nearly 40 percent.

In order to persuade more trainee teachers into specialising in RE, REC is urging the government to act by raising the current bursary to match or exceed other subjects.

According to Tes, of the 643 initial RE teacher training places the government aimed to fill in 2017, only 405 were managed, dropping 38 percent from the previous year.

But it’s not just RE; the overall number of students embarking on teacher training courses is dwindling. UK university admissions service UCAS reported the number of applications for 2017 were down by a third from 2016.

There is a large difference in bursary for RE trainees compared to other subjects, for example Geography and Classics teacher trainees receive grants of around GBP26,000 (US$36,700) compared to RE’s maximum of GBP9,000 (US$12,700).

The REC is also fighting for funding to increase RE knowledge in graduates from a variety of different degrees. The funding would be used for “subject-knowledge-enhancement courses” to enable more graduates from different courses to apply for RE teacher training.

teacher re religious education re training

There are growing concerns about the future of religious education in the UK if the teacher shortage continues. Source: Shutterstock.com

Currently, government figures report the majority (55 percent) of RE teachers have no qualification in the subject higher than an A-level.

“Showcasing the intellectual challenge of the subject, and highlighting the rewards for teachers who have the opportunity to tackle complex and sensitive issues with teenagers, really resonates,” RE charity Culham St Gabriel’s Trust worker Kathryn Wright told Tes.

“We’re hoping to interest more would-be RE teachers, who have a rich understanding of – and interest in – the subject.”

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