A rise in the number of students taking Religious Studies at A-level this year has been welcomed.
There were 16,645 RS A-level entries in England and Wales this year, an increase of 6.1 per cent on last year.
The subject saw a larger increase in take-up this year than history, which was up 1.5% on 2020, and political studies, which rose by 5.1%.
The figure represents a staggering 49.5% increase on 2003 figures, when just over 11,000 entries were recorded.
This is a greater leap than other subjects have seen over the same period, like geography (down 0.9%), law (up 9.4%), and history (up 8.7%).
The strong level of interest has been welcomed by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC), which said it suggested a continued recognition among students of the value of the RS A-level for further education, graduate employment and as an "essential life skill".
Responding to latest figures, REC Chair Professor Trevor Cooling called on the government to fund a national plan to ensure the subject is properly resourced and taught by professionally trained teachers.
"Religious Studies has maintained its popularity over the past two decades at A Level, where students have a greater say in their subject choice compared with GCSE when RS may not be offered as an examination course," he said.
"Young people clearly value the importance of extending their knowledge and understanding of religious and non-religious worldviews at A-level and continue to vote with their feet."
He added, "The government should recognise the essential role that RS plays in ensuring young people receive a balanced education, helping create a more cohesive society, and supporting a vibrant economy by preparing employees and future business leaders for the globalised workplace."
Katie Freeman, Chair of the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE), said government policy should reflect the subject's importance in helping young people understand today's world.
"Everyone has a unique, personal view of the world, whether it is religious or non-religious and the enormous variety and complexity of worldviews that exist today need skilful navigation," she said.
"RS helps young people understand those worldviews and make sense of their own, giving them the valuable ability to succeed and thrive in social and professional situations.
"Future government and school policy must reflect the vital nature of the subject. We must afford RE greater protection and ensure that it remains a staple element of the school curriculum."