On 4th July 2018 the REC organised a Parliamentary luncheon to discuss the barriers and challenges to RE teacher recruitment with MPs and policy experts. The lunch was attended by Liz Twist MP, Simon Hoare MP, Stephen Timms MP, a researcher from the office of Nick Gibb, and representatives from the National Education Union, the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers, and the Chartered College of Teaching, as well as by Rudolf Eliott Lockhart (REC Chief Executive), Deborah Weston (Chair of the RE Policy Unit), and Kathryn Wright, (Project Manager of the Beyond the Ordinary teacher recruitment project).
The recruitment of appropriately qualified RE teachers is a critical issue. The recruitment rate for RE teachers is at 49% of the official target for this year. At the same time last year, the recruitment rate was 60% of target. There are general challenges faced by all subjects and phases of recruitment, but those specific to RE include: a maximum bursary for RE of only £9,000 while bursaries for Geography and Classics have risen to a maximum of £26,000, impacting the perception of the profession and its value; RE teachers with relevant post A-level qualifications; far fewer report vacancies than there are in reality; exclusion of the subject from the EBacc; lack of a pool of recruits and support for non-specialists; lack of accountability within schools; and a misunderstanding of the nature of the subject, with many still expecting RE to be religious instruction, rather than education. The lunch was a great way to raise these issues and to discuss ways potential solutions to them.