Christianity is being "squeezed out" as schools have a "confused sense of purpose" when it comes to religious education, Ofsted has warned.
The schools watchdog says pupils are being failed by their schools as they are not effectively focusing on RE lessons. Classes offer little more than a "superficial" analysis of faith, with pupils being encouraged to explore feelings over learning about religion, Ofsted's report noted.
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Too often pupils were directed towards a "happy end", with teachers signalling they wanted a positive answer, limiting the opportunity to explore controversial possibilities. Teachers were also criticised for being unwilling to open up to enquiry in case pupils asked challenging questions they felt ill-equipped to deal with.
According to Ofsted: "Religious education makes an important contribution to pupils’ development, both personal and academic. It does so by promoting respect and empathy, which are increasingly important in an ever more globalised and multicultural 21st century."
Of the 185 inspected, three in five failed to realise the subject's full potential, the 'Religious education: realising the potential' report added. Ofsted identified low standards, weak teachings, a confused sense of purpose of what religious education is about, training gaps and weaknesses in the way religious education is examined.
Michael Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s director of schools, said pupils deserved "much better".
"At its best, religious education encourages children and young people to extend their natural curiosity and prepares them for life in modern society," he commented. "We saw some great examples of this during the survey, but too often we found religious education lessons being squeezed out by other subjects and children and young people leaving school with little knowledge or understanding of different religions.
"This just isn’t good enough when religion and belief are playing such a profound part in today’s world. Pupils deserve much better."
John Keast, chair of the Religious Education Council for England and Wales, added: "[We are] disappointed but not surprised by these findings. We have been warning the Department for Education for some time about the poor state of religious education in many schools."