Thousands of children are being taught about religion by classroom assistants rather than trained teachers, a report by MPs says.
A survey by the all-party parliamentary group on religious education found that one in four primary pupils was being taught the subject by a teaching assistant. In addition, more than half the RE teachers in secondary schools did not have a qualification to teach the subject.
“This is unacceptable and in many cases this has a detrimental impact on the quality of RE,” it concluded, adding that many giving the lessons lacked confidence to teach the subject. Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the group, said a number of government reforms – such as the decision to leave RE out of the English Baccalaureate measure in exam league tables – had lowered the status of the subject. Only English, maths, science, languages and history or geography count towards the award.
He added: “As many children as possible should be encouraged to study GCSE Religious Studies, and it is essential that they are taught by experienced and trained professionals at primary and secondary level.”
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chairman of the Accord Coalition – which seeks to ensure that state funded schools promote mutual understanding – said the report made “devastating reading”. The Government is against including RE in the EBacc requirements as it argues the subject is already compulsory for all pupils up to the age of 16.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "There are now 1,000 more RE teachers than there were in November 2010 and the number of RE teacher training places for 2013 has actually increased by 99 from last year.
"We are also attracting more higher quality graduates to teach RE, with the number of trainee teachers gaining a 2:1 or higher increasing year on year since 2008."