Transforming Religious Education; Ofsted report on Religious Education in Schools 2006 – 2009

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The Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW) welcomes the attention given by Ofsted to Religious Education in its recent report. Whilst the findings do not apply to Catholic schools which, with their voluntary aided character, are inspected and reported upon under separate arrangements, the report is still a very significant one for us. Many Catholic pupils will be in the community schools to which the report refers and they, and all others in these schools, deserve a meaningful Religious Education where they grow in knowledge and understanding as they learn about and from religion. This must include the sound study of Christianity.

The report shows that this entitlement is far from consistently met. It is an important wake up call. It should be a source of great concern that teachers lacked the necessary knowledge and confidence to plan and teach high quality Religious Education. However, rather than criticize teachers we should face up to the importance of Religious Education and look to Government for commitment to supporting Religious Education in the curriculum, its funding and back up for first class training and professional development of teachers for Religious Education. Religious Education is a crucial subject because it allows pupils space to engage with the ‘big’ questions, to learn from and to examine the beliefs of others, to understand better the intellectual and cultural heritage of our society and to grapple with challenging ethical questions. Religious Education has never been more important than at present, so now let’s see it treated as such in all types of schools.

Catholic schools have a proven track record in successfully teaching Religious Education, in its assessment and in achievement, accompanied by the necessary professional development of teaching staff. The Catholic sector is very willing to share that experience and expertise with Government, local authorities and schools.

Oona Stannard

Chief Executive and Director