'Significant' number of schools failing to meet religious education obligations

(Photo: Unsplash/Aaron Burden)

There have been calls for more support for religious education (RE) after an Ofsted report published this week found that many schools need to "add depth" to their RE curriculum.

Ofsted's new subject report, 'Deep and meaningful', draws on evidence gathered during visits to a sample of primary and secondary schools in 2013. 

It is the first time that RE provision has been reviewed by Ofsted since 2013 and the report published on Wednesday found that "little progress" has been made since then.

In "most" schools, RE provision is "superficially broad but lacks depth", while "a significant proportion of schools" are failing to meet the statutory requirement of teaching RE at all educational stages.

Ofsted also found a "lack of clarity" around the RE curriculum, prompting calls for better government guidance outlining what should be taught and when. 

Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Sir Martyn Oliver, said: "A strong RE curriculum is not only important for pupils' cultural development, it is a requirement of law and too many schools are not meeting that obligation.

"I hope that the examples of good RE curriculum in our report help schools develop their own practice and support the development of a strong RE curriculum for all."

Deborah Weston, Chair of the Religious Education Policy Unit, said that Ofsted was right to highlight that "in far too many schools across the country RE does not fulfil the subject's potential".

"Fortunately, many of the factors it identified as enabling high-quality RE can be easily addressed. These include strong teacher subject knowledge, access to professional development, regular time for RE lessons, and a well-organised curriculum," she said. 

Sarah Lane Cawte, chair of the Religious Education Council of England & Wales, said that funding was a factor in poor RE provision.

"In recent years RE has suffered from a gulf in government funding and the axing of the teacher training bursary," she said.

"Whilst the bursaries have been reinstated there is still much to be done. We are pleased that this Ofsted report calls for more government action to support RE across the sector."