Religious Education: Has the 'Ebac' Got its Back?

25/10/2011 12:46 BST | Updated 25/12/2011 10:12 GMT

The English baccalaureate is having positive effects on many subjects chosen at GCSE and A-Level but increasingly so it seems, having devastating effects on subjects elsewhere. The future of Religious Education (R.E.) has been a hot topic of debate and concerns have been raised into the direction it is headed.

Currently R.E is not included in the English baccalaureate (ebac) and statistics suggest this is putting pressure on the department in schools across the country. We are witnessing a decline in the number of students opting to take R.E; resulting in the reduction of staff, and some schools are cutting out a 'full course' option at GCSE altogether, as there are simply not enough pupils to teach (NATRE survey June 2011).

The success of subjects in the ebac is becoming quite clear as we are seeing a surging rise in the number of students opting for subjects such as History and Geography. Indeed this was confirmed in a question I put to Michael Gove, The Secretary of State for Education who confirmed "the English baccalaureate is having an immediate impact on subject choices. The numbers of students electing to study modern foreign languages, geography, history, physics, chemistry and biology are all up." Notably when asked if he was aware of the significant decline in the number of students studying R.E he begged to differ, suggesting R.E. as a choice was actually on the rise.

Figures produced in the NATRE survey, however are contrary to Mr. Gove's claim. The worry now is that, R.E. is being viewed as a 'lesser' subject to those on the ebac, in which both parents and students take advice, therefore without inclusion in the ebac, participation and interest will diminish further and risk the future of the subject altogether. In particular NATRE feel "in a place with such religious diversity as Great Britain, it would be a serious error to discourage young people from the religious tolerance and understanding provided by the Religious Studies GCSE course".