Schools spend just £1 per pupil on religious lessons
State schools spend no more than £1 per pupil each year teaching religion, a Government-funded study found yesterday. It said religious education was squeezed for time and money, for books and good
teachers, and for the support of school heads.
Even the most dedicated schools paid a maximum of £1 a pupil for materials and books to explain the religious beliefs that drive the thinking and behaviour of most of the population.
Religious education also struggled to get a share of the curriculum, with classroom time meant to be devoted to learning about religion used instead to teach children about citizenship, multicultural awareness, or even sex.
The findings of the study, carried out in 24 schools, were disclosed yesterday by Professor James Conroy of Glasgow University.
Professor Conroy said: ‘Religious education matters as never before. We cannot understand our own culture without religious knowledge, let alone that of others. Respect and social harmony depend upon it.
‘What is happening to RE in our schools is a scandal for which we will have to pay a high price in years to come.’
‘Success depends on adequate time, accurate description, good resources, well-educated teachers, high quality materials, and institutional support.
‘Despite the often heroic efforts by many of the individual teachers we met, these elements were too often missing.'
Professor Conroy condemned the ‘lengthy and often incompatible set of aims and objectives with which RE is freighted.’
He listed religious literacy, citizenship education, multicultural awareness, social cohesion, philosophical unerstanding, moral development, understanding heritage and sex and relationships education as subjects that get dragged into teaching time that is supposed to be devoted to RE.
Even where a school asked pupils to take RE exams, teachers were supposed to take them to GCSE level in a shorter time than that allowed for more fashionable subjects.
Professor Conroy, who is head of religious and philosophical education at Glasgow, blamed Education Secretary Michael Gove for some of the problem.
‘While governments insist on RE’s importance in theory, the marginalise it in practice - as Michael Gove has recently done by refusing to treat it as a core subject,’ he said.
‘Even where RE is taught magnificently, it is so against the odds,’ he added. ‘RE in Britain is under-resourced, torn between competing aims, and has become overburdened by having to include other subjects from sex to citizenship.’
Professor Conroy said: ‘As religious and secular diversity increases, students need to be able to articulate their own beliefs, and engage seriously with those of others, as never before.’