University to stem decline of RE teachers

Bangor University is to contribute towards increasing the number of teachers available to teach Religious Education and improve the teaching materials available to both teachers and students.

Religious Education has been facing a crisis in recent years, with teachers feeling increasingly underqualified to teach an ever-changing syllabus at GCSE and A level, while recruitment of new graduates as subject teachers is failing to keep up with demand.

A new three-year project at the University’s School of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences will collate and develop new teaching materials for use by both teachers and students and encourage more current university students to become subject teachers.

Dr Lucy Huskinson, who is leading the work explains:

“We need to ensure that we have sufficient current and new teachers who feel confident in delivering the new curricula being introduced for RE in secondary schools in England and Wales, to meet a growing interest in the subject among pupils. 

“We want to resolve two problems that have been identified, the lack of confidence and expertise reported by current secondary school teachers, who feel ill-equipped to teach the recently revised A-level curriculum; and also a significant decrease in numbers of subject students in the UK who are considering a career in teaching religious studies and philosophy in higher education.”

“We look forward to working with a number of schools across North Wales and the North West of England, to tease-out the relationship between subjects taught in philosophy and religion programmes at school and university levels, and the perception of their use in the wider world of work. We will then be making recommendations for how the subjects are taught on a national scale.”

In a move to encourage more student to consider teaching as a career, the project will encourage current students to consider a career as RE teachers, by providing them with opportunities to experience RE teaching for themselves, through taking part in supported activities.

The £75,000 grant from the All Saints Educational Trust has been awarded to Dr Lucy Huskinson, who will lead the work with, Dr Josh Andrews and Dr Gareth Evans-Jones from the School of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences.

Dr Rowan Williams, Former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge commented:

“I’m delighted to welcome this new initiative which Bangor University is sharing with schools in North Wales and the North West of England.  We need as perhaps never before teachers of religious studies who can open up the real human depth of the subject, who are themselves committed to its significance and who are fully resourced for the task.  It should be obvious – but it often isn’t – that religious education is not a minor and embarrassing extra in how a school prepares students for our complex society.  This project gives some real substance and some real promise for a more adequate strategy in developing it, and should be enthusiastically welcomed.”

Teachers in the region have also welcomed of the news.

Ray Wood, Curriculum Leader of Humanities at Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, Abergele said:

“This project will help raise our students’ aspirations, particularly for those from our more deprived areas, and undoubtedly will lead to more students opting to study RE at degree level.” 

Dr Gareth Lanagan, Programme Area Manager, Grwp Llandrillo-Menai said

“I believe this project will be paramount to the success of Religious Studies as an A-level subject. As a result of this project, the standard of teaching and learning will undoubtedly be higher whilst ensuring consistency in the delivery of the subject internationally. “

Mrs Mefys Jones-Edwards A Level RE teacher at Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones Amlwch commented:

“This project couldn’t happen at a better time due to the serious concerns raised by the teaching community across North Wales concerning the new A-level specification. Feedback by teachers and students provides concrete evidence that the specification does not command the confidence of the teaching community. This project is welcomed by RS teachers and students. It will hopefully save RS as a subject.”

Publication date: 7 November 2018