Thumbs Up to Religious Education?

We reported on 29 August ( about the importance which the British public attached in a YouGov poll to religious education (RE) relative to other school subjects.

On 13 December the RE Council (REC) of England and Wales, an umbrella body of fifty national organizations which was established in 1973, issued a press release highlighting some new research which it had commissioned in this area, under the banner ‘Young People Give Thumbs Up to RE’. See:

The study was undertaken online by Dubit Research on 18-22 October 2010 among a representative sample of 1,000 16-24 year-olds. 

It is being published as the Government sets out its Schools White Paper, calling for a return to traditional humanities-based disciplines (although, as things currently stand, the Department for Education has ruled that RE will not be counted as a humanity for the purposes of the English Bac, the proposed new measure of school effectiveness).

The key finding, according to REC’s press release, is that RE ‘is a valued subject that leaves a lasting impression on those who study it’. 

73% of the sample had taken either the full or short course GCSE in RE, comprising 69% of males and 77% of females. The proportion was fairly consistent across faith groups, even standing at 71% for those with no religion. Ethnically, blacks (81%) had the highest level of course take-up.  

When asked what they remembered about their RE lessons at school, the most popular memory was learning about several different religions (56%), the second was about debates on right and wrong (50%). Recall of these debates was notably higher by the 16-18s (57%) than the 22-24s (42%), so perhaps the effect wears off with time.

80% of respondents thought RE could promote better understanding of different religions and beliefs, with 13% disagreeing. Even 77% of those professing no religion agreed with this statement. The figure rose to 83% among women, the 19-21s, Muslims, and those who had studied RE at GCSE; to 85% for Christians and 97% for blacks.

52% agreed and 32% disagreed with the proposition that there should be more effective teaching about Christianity at school so that pupils can better understand English history, culture and society. Agreement was higher (55%) among those who had taken RE as a GCSE than those who had not (43%). Peak agreement was recorded for Christians (69%) and blacks (63%).

56% of young people felt that studying RE at school had been a positive influence. Those most likely to agree included blacks (77%), Muslims (71%), Asians (68%), Christians (66%) and Hindus (63%). 29% disagreed with the suggestion and 15% expressed no opinion. 

More details of the survey are contained in a 10-page report which is available on request from the contact telephone/email given in the press release. Some of the above statistics are derived from this report. The poll has also received coverage in The TES for 17 December.

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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