Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

What Keeps Me Awake at Night - A Subject Held Back by Contempt: Opinion

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

What Keeps Me Awake at Night - A Subject Held Back by Contempt: Opinion

Article excerpt

Recently, it was reported that there is a shortage of qualified RE teachers. What's new? This has been the case ever since I began teaching religious studies 55 years ago.

I love my subject and there have been many fulfilling experiences that I can look back on with pleasure. Yet I would not advise a young religious studies graduate to follow my path of being a specialist in a secondary school. They will have very little chance of teaching the subject in as thorough a fashion as any other academic subject. It is likely that your headteacher will be either indifferent or hostile to RE and resentful of the fact that it must be fitted into the timetable.

It was my misfortune to serve under heads who all thought in terms of "science or religion", and considered my presence to be an inconvenient legal requirement.

I remember the dismay of one of them when "too many" opted to take religious studies for GCSE. Two groups were inevitable unless I could persuade some not to do it, as indeed I was asked to do. It is not pleasant to work in a situation where your head hopes you will fail. Many of the staff will also think that your place in the establishment is irrelevant to the serious business of education.

The meagre timetable allowance for RE will reflect the official contempt. For many years, I taught each class once for 35 minutes a week. This meant that I taught many more pupils than other teachers, at one time about 500 a week. Marking work for this number was a "Forth Bridge" task, and yet I was able to cover so little ground that I felt the pupils' progress was minimal. …

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