Religious Education In Schools Protected By New MP Parliamentary Group

Faith groups and politicians will join forces in a bid to protect Religious Education in schools and promote its value to young people.

The creation of the new all party parliamentary group (APPG), which will attempt to raise awareness of the importance of RE in schools, has already had the backing of the Religious Education (RE) Council of England and Wales.

The APPG will be chaired by Stephen Lloyd, Lib Dem MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, who last year tabled an early day motion calling for RE to be included in the government's English Baccalaureate (EBacc). It attracted 115 signatures, compared to an e-petition calling for financial education in the curriculum which has attracted more than 100,000 signatures to date.

The group is believed to continue the campaign to include RE in the EBacc, which was introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove, and awarded to teenagers who score at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and either history or geography. The EBacc has received wide criticism from the public and MPs alike.

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

Lloyd said: "I'm confident this new APPG will be able to provide real insight into the value of RE, especially as it helps young people leave school with an accurate grasp on the importance and relevance of religion.

"In today's world where our children can be open to an enormous amount of misleading information, I believe it is absolutely essential they are taught about different cultures and religions by trained, experienced RE teachers, allowing children to make informed choices."

John Keast, chairman of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, said: "Recently the RE community has felt under fire and this represents an important step to give the subject a strong profile amongst parliamentarians.

"The coalition Government is making policy decisions about academies, the national curriculum, qualifications and even teacher training provision.

"Directly or indirectly, all these will challenge how RE is taught to young people.

"It is extremely positive that there is such goodwill and interest in Westminster to support the subject in schools today."

According to last summer's GCSE results, there was a rise in the numbers of young people taking RE at GCSE.

In total, 221,974 youngsters entered for the subject compared to 188,704 the year before.

At the same time, history and geography saw a decline in entries.

Last summer, a poll of almost 2,000 schools by the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) found that one in four (24%) community, or comprehensive, schools, along with a quarter (24%) of academies and almost a third (31%) of grammars were not meeting the requirement to provide 14 to 16-year-olds, the GCSE age group, with an adequate education in the subject.

NATRE warned that RE was at risk of disappearing from many secondary schools.