More students taking Religious Education GCSE

The number of students taking the Religious Education GCSE had increased for the twelfth year in a row, according to figures out today from the Church of England.

Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren across England and Wales are collecting their GCSE results today, with a record number achieving top grades.

Some 188,704 took the RE GCSE this year, up 3.5 per cent on 2008 figures. Results showed that 73.1 per cent of the total RE candidates achieved a grade between A* and C.

RE is in the top ten league table of subjects in terms of the number of candidates and the number of students taking the course is growing at a rate faster than mathematics and history.

Although the number of students taking the GCSE short course dropped by 2.4 per cent in the last year to 279,954, the proportion taking it rose slightly against other short course options.

Nick McKemey, the Church of England’s Head of School Improvement, said the “relentless” growth of the RE GCSE course demonstrated a need for adequate resources and time to be invested in its teaching.

“Young people are clamouring for a deeper understanding of religious perspectives on issues of the day and how moral and ethical questions are considered by the major faiths,” he said.

“Twelve years of organic growth in student numbers cannot be ignored. This is a phenomenon that indicates students’ appreciation that exploring faith and belief helps them to understand the world and become better global citizens.”

A similar growth has been seen in the number of students taking Religious Studies at A-Level. Last week, 21,233 A-level students received their results for Religious Studies, a 0.7 per cent increase on 2009 figures.

This year 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’s Chief Education Officer, the Rev Janina Ainsworth, was encouraged by the results.

She 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."