Even though the government is working hard to reform the GCSE and ensure that it is rigorous and challenging, it will not be included as one of the humanities options in the English Baccalaureate. This exclusion has not stemmed the rising numbers of those young people who value and want to study the subject, but that is primarily because the Ebacc was not compulsory and schools can still offer the subject as one of the ”˜Progress 8’ that will be measured in performance tables.
But recent announcements from the Secretary of State suggest that the Conservative Party’s manifesto is likely to see the EBacc becoming compulsory, and that will have a disastrous impact on the numbers of students able to take a subject which they value so highly.
Perhaps the largest challenge is found in the desperate shortage of specialist or dedicated RE specialist teachers. It is shocking that more RE lessons are currently being taught by non-specialists than by teachers trained in the subject. One can only imagine the outcry if this was the situation with Maths or English. Encouraging new RE teachers requires the government to reconsider their current policy not to provide bursaries to PGCE students wishing to train as RE teachers. Why would anybody want to train to teach a subject which is undermined by central government in such a fashion?