A new all-party parliamentary group of MPs is being set up to safeguard the subject, amid fears it is being sidelined after its omission from the list of subjects recognised by the Government's new English Baccalaureate.
The new body, which will be supported by all the country's leading religious groups as well as the British Humanist Association, follows a poll by religious education teachers showing that 30 per cent of schools had cut the time for RE since details of the new Baccalaureate had become known.
This is despite warm words by David Cameron and this week the Queen about the central importance of faith to today's society. Earlier this week Baroness Warsi, the Conservative party chairwoman, warned of the danger of "militant secularists" downgrading the importance of religion in public life.
RE has soared in popularity as a subject at GCSE level since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. The number of students studying it has increased from 113,000 to 460,000 in the past 15 years.
Stephen Lloyd, Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, who will chair the new all-party parliamentary group, said: "It is clear that pupils find it a rewarding and fulfilling subject." RE is a statutory subject on the syllabus for five to 16-year-olds, but it is not included as part of the national curriculum.
Local RE bodies have been given the task of interpreting how it should be taught in schools in their areas. Under the new English Baccalaureate, students will qualify for it if they achieve five A* to C grade passes at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and a humanities subject. However, the humanities are restricted to history and geography with no mention of RE and the arts.
The Religious Education Council, which includes 50 different religions, will provide professional support for the new group.Reuse content