Further rise in students taking A-level Religious Studies

The number of students taking Religious Studies A-level continues to rise, figures out from the Church of England today reveal.

Millions of students received their A-level results today, among them 21,233 who had taken the Religious Studies A-level. That figure is a 0.7 per cent increase on 2009, which saw 21,079 students sit their A-level Religious Studies exam.

Today’s A-level results see the seventh consecutive year-on-year increase in the number of students taking Religious Studies A-level. The last five years since 2004 have seen a total increase of 47.3 per cent.

2010 saw an above-average proportion of candidates - 6 per cent - achieving the new A* grade.

The number taking AS Levels also increased to 27,742, up 4.6 per cent from 26,519 in 2009.

The Church of England believes the figures are a sign of continued interest among young people in exploring religious perspectives on the big questions in life and understanding the influence of different moral and cultural frameworks on how people perceive the world around them.

The Rev Janina Ainsworth, the Church of England’s Chief Education Officer, said: “Young people are clearly indicating their growing interest in a humanities subject that encourages them to explore different viewpoints, and understand more about their culture and that of their neighbours.

“The growing popularity of Religious Studies remains one of post-16 education’s best kept secrets.

"It’s rather an inconvenient fact for those who seek to portray the world in purely secular terms, and who like to suggest that young people have no interest in religion."

Rev Ainsworth defended the track record of Church of England schools in teaching a balanced Religious studies course, while expressing her support for a national curriculum for RE.

“Contrary to suggestions by some commentators, religious education syllabuses taught to younger students in church schools require them to learn about at least the six major world faiths," she said.

"The introduction of the non-statutory Framework for RE reinforces this requirement, and we can see some merits in introducing a National Curriculum for RE, which could potentially help improve the consistency and quality of teaching materials and teacher training for RE specialists.”

With many young people facing uncertainty over access to university places, the Church of England has reissued prayers on its website for those considering their options.

The special prayers were viewed by more than 1,100 people last year.

They are available at: www.cofe.anglican.org/worship/prayers/examprayer.html