Last year I said that I thought 2013 would be a make or break year for RE. I am glad to be able to say as we enter 2014 that RE is not broken and I believe it is making a recovery.
It is still true GCSE RS is not allowed to count towards the EBacc but it is allowed to count towards the new Performance 8 measure by which secondary schools will be held accountable.
It is true that overall GCSE RS entries in the summer were down (due to a large decline in the Short course) but we expected that – its results will no longer count towards school performance – and full course entries went up again.
It is true that we have not yet got the PGCE RE bursaries back, but as the year ended Mrs Truss the Children’s minister said she would look at that again.
It is true that trainee targets went down last year and many School Direct places were not filled, but the targets for 2014 have been increased by over 150%.
It is true that, in October, Ofsted produced a very sobering report on the state of RE in non-faith based schools, but this captured much media attention and the important role of RE was reaffirmed right across the piece. (There is no such thing as bad publicity?)
Other achievements in 2013:
The REC has completed its RE Review which was successfully launched in the House of Commons in October and was disseminated in events throughout the country. This has been widely welcomed and is now providing the foundation for further work by the REC and its member bodies to take forward the recommendations. The REC’s strategic plan is now being revised, the PD portal will be opened, the 2010 RE Guidance reviewed etc. The Young Ambassadors and Quality Mark schemes are going well.
The Department for Education (DfE) welcomed the Review and is now working with the REC to take aspects of it forward. This is the practical outcome of one of the most significant events of the year, when the Secretary of State admitted in July that he had not done enough for RE. A very clear change of attitude towards RE has taken place at the DfE with two very specific new developments:
The DfE has agreed that RE can have its own ESAG (Expert Subject Advisory Group) alongside ESAGs for the National Curriculum subjects, which it will fund, to help implement the new national Curriculum Framework for RE (NCFRE) contained in the Review report – so the REC will be embarking on new practical guidance on RE curriculum, assessment and resources parallel to the NC this year.
The REC, working with Ofqual and other relevant parties, has been asked by the DfE to take forward the process of reforming GCSE RS ready for first teaching in 2016. A project to take this forward will be set up, and funding sought.
The REC itself has survived financially and is now able to see its way through to next year. To help gain sustainability from September 2014 onwards, the REC has received clear support from its member bodies for a new voluntary tiered subscription system which will provide a more secure level of income to take the REC forward, and a new process to look at how the RE community generally works together is to be put in place.
There are still significant challenges ahead, and things may seem to get worse before they get better. Entries to exams may continue to decline and provision may weaken especially in some sectors. Ofsted’s criticisms have to be faced and dealt with at many levels. Training will continue to be an issue (or lack of it) as will the supply of teachers. But, the REC is in good heart. I believe RE has turned a corner and you can be sure the REC will continue to fight on behalf of the whole RE community for a better deal for RE in 2014. With many thanks to all for 2013, let us keep up the good fight, and have a Happy New Year.