RE failings are disappointing but not surprising

A pupil at St George's C of E Primary School in Stockport, writes about the Muslim faith during a religious education lesson in this photo dated Wednesday July 6, 2011.(PA)

The Religious Education Council for England and Wales has responded with disappointment to Ofsted's report criticising RE provision in schools.

Ofsted said schools and the Government had failed to focus effectively on religious education and that six in 10 schools were not "realising the subject's full potential".

The report found weak teaching, a confused sense of purpose of what religious education is about, gaps in training, and weaknesses in the way religious education is examined.

John Keast, Chair of the Religious Education Council for England and Wales, said: "The Religious Education Council is disappointed but not surprised by these findings. We have been warning the Department for Education for some time about the poor state of religious education in many schools."

The RE Council will be releasing a report on its own review into religious education on 23 October in Westminster.

The report offers a new curriculum for religious education as a benchmark for local authorities, academies and faith schools, and proposes various ways to improve religious education in schools.

Mr Keast added: "It is now vital that the Department for Education works with the Religious Education Council on putting things right. We can do better than this."

A volunteer helps children learn about Jesus and his teachings at a Counties' Life exhibition in Neath, South Wales

Mission charity Counties UK said Christians could help schools that may be failing in RE.

Former headteacher Roger Brind OBE, from Counties, said: "The Ofsted report is a sad reflection on RE teaching in this country today. One of the problems for teachers is that RE is seen as the poor relation to other subjects.

"Although RE is statutory to teach, there is no clear guidance about what is expected nationally, like there is for other subjects. RE is also often taught by non-specialists who have not thought through the subject for themselves and therefore have a lack of knowledge.

"And even for those teachers who do have knowledge or a Christian perspective there is often the fear that they will be accused of proselytising."

The Counties charity provides churches with a multi-media exhibition for use in their work with local schools.

The Life exhibition encourages children to ask questions and form their own opinions on the story of Jesus, and is endorsed by Lat Blaylock, RE adviser and editor of RE Today.

Blaylock said: "Teachers of RE all over Britain need dynamic, authentic and exciting ways of enabling pupils to think hard about Christianity.

"The Life exhibition continues to deliver this for tens of thousands of pupils, connecting Christian communities with schools."