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Compulsory KS4 RE or RS in the EBac? Your views, please.

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by SteveWoodhouse, Jun 30, 2011.

  1. SteveWoodhouse

    SteveWoodhouse New commenter

    I may be alone here, but personally I feel that I'd gladly sacrifice compulsory RE at KS4 in exchange for having RS GCSE in the EBac.
    RE at KS4 is, as we know, often not taught at all. When it is taught the standards can be poor, with lessons dished out by unwilling 'bits & pieces' non-specialist teachers, filling that extra couple of periods in their time table.
    When it is taught properly, non-compulsory KS4 RE is often taught to pupils who wish they were elsewhere, and don't see why they should be forced to do the subject. My experience of adults is that compulsory RE at KS4 is largely counter-productive, and has put them off many of the ideas discussed.
    The one caveat I would throw up is this. If RE was removed from compulsory status at KS4 in exchange for a place in the eBac, it might be that a new Secretary of State would have put RS in the EBac in a couple of years, anyway.
    Nonetheless, for the reasons given, I'd happily drop compulsory RE at KS4 for RS GCSE being an EBac humanity alongside history and geography.
    Any thoughts?
    Steve W
  2. I see your points, but if you make non-compulsary then there will be no KS4 RS in some schools. Do you mean it would be included as a humanities, like Geography and History? Because if that is the case then it will just disappear.
    I have worked very hard to make RE a respected subject in my school. In the most part it now is. However a lot of my students, even those who choose to do RE in year 11 (all do short course in year 10 and then some choose to continue full course) would always choose history over RS. It is also a popular subject and generally seen as more useful.
    Some schools could then just get rid altogether, save a teacher, by not offering it at GCSE as it could simply be offered history and geography.
    Whilst I meet some resistence at KS4, I think it is important for my students to learn about ethical issues (very mono-cultural, white).
    I think it should be compulsory to have short course RS as paret of Ebacc. Never gonns happen I realise!
  3. SteveWoodhouse

    SteveWoodhouse New commenter

    You never know. It would be an easy way out for Gove. He doesn't want RS in as it's compulsory and schools would just put everyone in for RS GCSE and not history or geography - completely negating the point of the EBac. But we now know that RE isn't taught to any great standard in many secondary schools, if at all. If he says RS isn't in the EBac, but is compulsory to at least half GCSE level, then that's a way out for him.
    I appreciate that non-compulsory RE is taught well at KS4 in some places, but we're kidding ourselves if we don't admit that this is the exception rather than the rule. RS is at its peak (up until the EBac, that is), and it's still largely a bit of a joke at KS4 for many (I'm paraphrasing the NATRE report). Let's face facts, we are never going to get across-the-board great quality non-compulsory RE at KS4.
    It's just not going to happen.
    Regarding your first point:
    In the vast majority of cases, saying goodbye to compulsory KS4 RE in these schools should be a welcome thing. There will be exceptions, of course. But where there are strong RS departments teaching the subject well, it will remain popular, and where RS is in the EBac it will be respected.
    No HT is going to drop a popular, well-taught subject which counts towards the EBac. Where RE is taught badly by non-specialists to teenagers against their will - I just don't see the point in keeping that. Indeed, I'd argue that's not real RE in the first place.
    I appreciate you may have strong compulsory non-GCSE RE at KS4 in your school, but if that's the case you're an exception to the rule.
    Steve W
  4. deut

    deut New commenter

    There is a little part of me that wonders if we are shooting ourselves in the foot with the current campaign. I love teaching RS. It is a popular well respected subject in my comprehensive school. All students sit the full course on one 50 minute session a week (we also deliver all the PSHE as part of their RS). It is popular with parents,students and SLT. It is accepted as a compulsory subject but I work hard to make sure the units we study are well taught and the subject is well organised.
    However there has been so much negative press recently about RS. Mumsnet has had lots of threads with parents angry that RS is compulsory. The public comments arising from the Guardian article mentioned in the NATRE email were uniformly critical of RS. If Michael Gove needed any feedback about the public perception of RS he will have had a great deal from MUMsnet threads and other parental forums.I have never encountered any hostility towards RS in my school. I wonder if I will in future?
  5. SteveWoodhouse

    SteveWoodhouse New commenter

    I agree.
    If RE were not compulsory at KS4 you'd remove a lot of that negativity, whilst also removing Gove's only real argument against not counting it as a humanity in the EBac.
    We're shooting ourselves in the foot by insisting on RS being in the EBac whilst simultaniously insisting it remains compulsory for those not wishing to take it in the EBac.
    I'll come clean. At my school we have no RE in KS4, other than what is taught in PSHE (I think you get the picture). But we have a very healthy and extremely popular GCSE RS course (usually around 40% of the year group opt for it). At the moment that course is being threatened with potentially dwindling numbers in the future because 'it's compulsory at KS4 anyway', despite the fact that in reality it isn't compulsory, and frankly I wouldn't want it to be.
    In other words, I'm getting all the disadvantages of compulsory RE at KS4 with absolutely no benefit.
    I might potentially end up with pupils not being able to take RS at KS4 who want to, just so we can force pupils to do RE at KS4 who don't want to.
    Where's the logic in that? Who wants to do that?
    Steve W
    ps. Having said all that, numbers taking RS at GCSE have doubled with this year's Yr.9 options. No, I can't figure it out, either.
  6. grandelf

    grandelf New commenter

    <font size="3">here is the danger a lot of people will miss in the 'too Ebac or not to Ebac'</font> <font size="3"></font>
    <font size="3">Say RS/RE get places a s a subject that you must take/pass to get the grade, what happens in a few years time when the Ebac glow dimmers and there is a shiny new qualification on the horizon? Is RE then dumped because we campaigned for it to no longer be a core subject?</font>
  7. ramaduds

    ramaduds New commenter

    I agree. Also, I wonder if many RE teachers are supportive of their school not officially teaching the requirement of Core RE (because of the difficulties our subject faces). The prospect of teaching a nice Options group, not having to worry about non-specialists and HofD dealing with behaviour for all Core RE groups in KS3/4! Why on earth would RE teachers fight for Core RE in their schools. In ours for example, FC RS is one of the highest performing subjects and SC is the Lowest!
    But I WILL fight! What we'd prefer (having an Options group we can focus on to teach Good RE too) tempts us to think that is the best for pupils and the school. What we forget is the reason we went into RE in the first place. It is a massively important subject, a subject all pupils need to tackle (and many adults in my opinion!).
    People will always moan about religions, it's the society we live in. Teaching RE to KS3 will be the next thing if Core RE in KS4 goes. Then in primary schools (a subject many primary teachers hate teaching anyway!) A-Level and Degree level studies will then plumit. It sounds a bit OTT but if the law changes for one KS (The big one in the middle!) allows access for the same to be changed elsewhere.
    I realise i'm spluring out my thoughts but it does worry me...
  8. ramaduds

    ramaduds New commenter

    Wow I really did splur it all out - hope you can make sense of it!
  9. SteveWoodhouse

    SteveWoodhouse New commenter

    Great post.
    If I felt that all KS4 pupils would be getting the true benefit of what we all know the subject has to offer, I'd be arguing for compulsory GCSE across the board.
    But let's face it, even with RE/RS at its highest point (just before the EBac) we had nothing like that - not even close. We had 25% of schools not doing any KS4 at all (and that number set to rise). Most of the other 75% taught by non-specialists who don't want to teach it. Even the remainder is taught to pupils who don't want to listen (you can lead a horse to water...etc).
    And because of that horrible situation, our reward is to be told that compulsory RE means we're not in the EBac.
    It's a lose/lose situation.
    Steve W
  10. In my case, I teach in a small rural school. I have approached the deputy head responsible for timetabling and asked for RE to be put as an option subject - his response was that there simply isn't the space or money for 'fringe' subjects. Due to staffing costs he has to only offer the subjects that will guarantee a take up of at least 15 students - and considering our year groups are between 60 - 90 students the take up has to be a sizable proportion of the year. At the moment, we do short course for all KS4 students (2 lessons a fortnight) so if you took away compulsory RE at KS4 that would be me out of a job.
  11. SteveWoodhouse

    SteveWoodhouse New commenter

    If RS went in the EBac it wouldn't be compulsory. It'd be an option, in the same way that history and geography are now. Putting it in the EBac is a signal that it's an important, valuable, academic subject.
    If the EBac dies a death in a few years, and we're left with no EBac and no compusory RE at KS4 either, then that doesn't bother me at all. I'm happy to rest on the standards of my teaching and enthusiasm for my subject to keep me in a job. I don't need 14-16 year olds dragged into my classroom against their will to keep me salary rolling into my bank account every month.
    That's just my opinion.
    Steve W
  12. pete14

    pete14 New commenter

    Why are we assuming it is one or the other? What we want is for our subject to be included in a new way of reporting KS4 results. That is all. Of course it would help our subject to flourish against what does seem to be serious opposition from many directions but why should we be prepared to give up what should be RE for all (but isn't)?

    How schools choose to provide compulsory RE is up to them. Because RE teachers are willing and able to teach GCSE RS in less than half the time given to other subjects, retaining compulsory RE and putting it in the E Bacc seems to me to be a win /win situation for school managers -a boost for the E Bacc and little drain on the time maths and science seem to need to get equivalent results to us!
  13. I completely agree. I would much rather have RE in the ebac and not compulsory. That way you would have students who want to do it, parents who are supportive, etc. If the ebac goes as Steve W has said and we are doing a good job and getting the results then why would it be dumped?

    The ebac has not just done damage to RE in schools, i..e some schools dropping it, it's now nationally in the limelight as a subject that is not important.
  14. part of me agrees, but what about the argument that KS4 students are still young and need to do value-laden subjects that they may not want to - such as Citizenship and PSHE. Are you suggesting that RE leaves the ground totally to these subjects without any input on the massive overlap that there is e.g. issues of identity, prejudice and justice etc.?
    Or perhaps you think that with the National Curriculum review that these subjects will be dumped in a couple of years anyway and Academies may well start that process earlier (I know of at least one academy that has dumped Citizenship).
    What sort of compulsory curriculum at KS4 do you want ?
  15. SteveWoodhouse

    SteveWoodhouse New commenter

    We're not - it's just a hypothetical.
    Because, as you say, it isn't.
    Just before the EBac RE/RS was at its absolute pinnacle - we're not going to get any better than that, and compulsory RE at KS4 was pants.
    When you say "Why should we be prepared to give up...", for me I'm not giving up anything (no non-GCSE KS4 RE at our school, like many). And I don't think most of us will be giving up anything other than not having to organise non-specialist staff to teach a subject (against their will) to students who have dropped it for GCSE, and don't want to be there,.
    That's not the case in every school - I'm sure there are a small number of schools where non-compulsory KS4 RE is well-taught by specialists and well-received by the students. But we'd by lying to ourselves if we we thought that was the norm, even, as I've said, when RE was at its absolute peak.
    And in return for the privilage of this, compulsory RE is used as the only remaining excuse with any validity for keeping RS out of the EBac - a situation which is stopping pupils who want to do RS at GCSE from being able to do so.
    Steve W
  16. SteveWoodhouse

    SteveWoodhouse New commenter

    If I thought students were getting an rigorous and valuable education in compulsory KS4 RE lessons about "...identity, prejudice and justice etc... then I'd agree. But what the NATRE survey, countless OFSTED reports and our own experience teaches us, they're not.
    Off the top of my head, compulsory English, maths, and science. Maybe a language. Then, if we're to have an EBac (or anything similar - and I think we're stuck with 'something' for a long time to come *) some sort of choice of academically rigorous and worthwhile subjects. Including RS.
    Steve W
    * Even if Labour get back in power in 2015 they won't just dump the EBac as if it never happened. They'll modify it or replace it with something similar.
  17. deut

    deut New commenter

    Sorry. I don't think I made my views clear. I think it would be a disaster for RS if it was no longer compulsory. I remember the old days and RS was dying or dead in many schools. The short/full course GCSE and the ease of teaching these has re-established RS as a respected subject at KS4.
    I think it would make a huge difference if there was a national curriculum for RS at KS3 and it was no longer subject to SACREs. It would make it easier to share resources, to have subject textbooks and other resources drawn up to a national curriculum framework. I honestly think that is the only step forward for RS if it is to survive. I find it worrying when I ask teachers, arriving from other schools, what RS is like in these schools and they are generally negative.My present Head told me that he had never taught in a school with a proper RS department before. RS teaching he informed me was generally rubbish. He has thank goodness come round and is enormously supportive of RS now.
    Unless we campaign for significant changes to the national organisation of RS it will eventually disappear.Not for a few years but it will go unless we have the support of the public.
    I do hope I am wrong. I love RS. It is popular and lively and relevant when taught well.
  18. pete14

    pete14 New commenter

    I quite agree that at the moment RS GCSE is stronger than it has ever been. Some of this strength is because of compulsory RE and teachers using their expertise and time to give their pupils the chance to do either a short course or a full course GCSE in their compulsory RE time. I agree that non certificated compulsory RE is a nightmare but with the huge wealth of different courses offered at short / full course GCSE, I cannot understand why some people are putting on non certificated courses which in most cases pupils vote with their feet and don't take them seriously.
    As I have pointed out to several people in my responses to the Ebacc, the fact that RE is compulsory by legislation (even if not in actuality) is no reason for excluding us from the Ebacc. If anything, it should be a reason for inclusion not exclusion. They have to do it, just as they have to do English, Maths etc so there seems no logic in barring it from the new way of reporting performance in league tables.

    We still have a battle to win and disunity between us is not going to help. I think you have posted some really positive and insightful posts on the Ebacc threads Steve but I think it is important to use the compulsory element in RE / RS to justify inclusion rather than appearing to be negative about it.
  19. I still disagree. I know many, many school where RE is taught excellently. But mainly I know that as an option subject in my school it would die.off, as although it is popular, history is more popular. If kids on need one to get ebacc, they will choose history.
  20. I believe that some sort of compulsary RE/RS Citizenship/ PSHE lesson is essentail to produce reflective, open citizens for our society.

    Personally I think short course options and compulsary exam couse problems- some are not considered worthy by colleges, it's pressure often on non specialists, the pupils have another area to worry about come exam time on top of other subjects etc.

    Since we dropped sc we have gone up to two option groups with excellent results- the past two years we have had more opting for R.S. than Geography - even with the bacc.

    If you remove the element of "we're doing it anyway" we can compete accademically with history etc. and our teaching can be focused on those who want to achieve a GCSE.


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