A MARKED increase in the number of students taking Religious Studies (RS) at A level — bigger than for either history or political studies — has led to renewed calls for greater protection for the subject and a national plan to resource it. Figures published today show that 16,665 students took the subject this year: an increase of 6.1 per cent on 2020, and an overall increase of 49.5 per cent since 2003.
Professor Trevor Cooling, who chairs the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, said: “The Government should recognise the essential role that RS plays in ensuring young people receive a balanced education, helping create a more cohesive society, and supporting a vibrant economy by preparing employees and future business leaders for the globalised workplace.
“We urge it to fund a national plan for RE to ensure it is properly resourced and taught by professionally trained teachers, and to enact a statement of entitlement to a high-quality education in religion and worldviews for all pupils.”
The chair of the National Association of Teachers of RE, Katie Freeman, said that the true value of A-level results would be reflected in the knowledge, understanding, and skills that pupils took with them in future life.
“Everyone has a unique, personal view of the world, whether it is religious or non-religious, and the enormous variety and complexity of world-views that exist today need skilful navigation,” she said. “RS helps young people understand those world-views and make sense of their own, giving them the valuable ability to succeed and thrive in social and professional situations.
“Future governments and school policy must reflect that vital nature of the subject. We must afford RE greater protection, and ensure that it remains a staple element of the school curriculum.”
A record-breaking number of students received the top A-level grades this year: a figure of 44.8 per cent, compared with 38.1 per cent last year, and 25.2 per cent in 2019.