More than a third of people believe many Religious Education teachers do not know enough about Christianity to be able to teach it effectively, while most support teaching the religion, a survey has revealed.

The poll by Oxford University also showed the majority (64%) supported teaching Christianity to pupils so they could understand English history, while 57% of the 1,800 people questioned said it was important if pupils are to understand the English culture and way of life.

More than two-fifths (43%) of the adults surveyed said that more attention should be given to teaching about Christianity in RE lessons than is done so at the moment.

But just over a third (37%) said they believe that many RE teachers do not know enough about Christianity to be able to teach it effectively.

The poll also asked which topics of Christianity should children be taught about.

The most popular answer was the history of the religion, chosen by 58%, followed by major festivals such as Easter and Christmas (56%) and how Christianity distinguishes right from wrong (51%).

Just over a third (38%) said pupils should be taught the Bible, and 30% said they should be taught the Lord's Prayer.

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The poll was commissioned by Oxford as part of a new project by researchers at the university to support teachers teaching Christianity in RE lessons.

Oxford said it launched the project following concerns from inspectors and other quarters about how the subject is taught in schools.

Research has suggested that teachers can be nervous about teaching issues related to Christianity for fear it could be seen as evangelising, the university said.

Lead researcher Dr Nigel Fancourt, a lecturer for the RE programme at Oxford University's department of education, said: "Christianity statutorily receives more attention than other religions or world views, so it will probably be the only religion that pupils study throughout their schooling.

"It is treated in the same way as other religions, but studied more frequently. While this is challenging and vibrant in some schools, the fact that the basics are often already vaguely familiar to some teachers and pupils means it can present problems. For instance, the presentation of Christianity can be incoherent, lacking in intellectual development, or too stereotypical."

Concerns have previously been raised about RE in England's schools.

The exclusion of RE from the English Baccalaureate has created a storm of protest, with campaigners arguing the move could see the subject marginalised in schools.

Teenagers are awarded the EBacc if they achieve at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography.