Recommendation 7 states:
The government should allocate funding for CPD for Religion and Worldviews to support the delivery of the new non-statutory national programmes of study. This funding should be for a period of at least five years and be sufficient to cover:
All of the above funding streams should be administered and overseen by the national body as part of their remit.
More funding for CPD? Yes please. Who could possibly have an issue with this? As an RE teacher of 17 years, I’m all too aware of my subject knowledge limitations and pedagogical weaknesses, and I am very pleased to see an increase in use of research by teachers, both research about learning and subject specific research.
The Commission on RE recommended that in order ‘to support the delivery of the new non-statutory national programmes of study’, funding should be allocated to cover at least five years’ worth of national CPD programmes, including online and face-to-face CPD, alongside the development of support and guidance materials, and financial support for local groups, hubs and networks to enable professional advice and support to be available.
All of this is necessary and important. The recent NATRE Primary survey found that around 1 in 3 primary teachers have had no subject specific CPD in the last year. When added to the 1/3 of primary teachers who don’t even have a GCSE RS, and the around half of primary teachers who had between zero and three hours of subject specific ITE training, it becomes obvious that such professional support is urgent. Too many primary teachers report a lack of confidence in teaching RE. Note the lack of confidence. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to teach RE well, or that they don’t see the point, more that they are crying out for some assistance to do their job well.
And while the secondary sector can obviously lean more on its greater numbers of subject specialists, there are still too many schools where that subject specialist is on their own, trying to manage and support a team of teachers from a wide range of other subjects. Even some GCSE classes are being taught by teachers not fully equipped to teach the subject.
The need is obvious and urgent. The Commission’s recommendation is one we can all support.
However, I do think there is a need for the RE community to look at our own house as well. There is an enormous amount of training material out there, from publishers, universities, schools, religious and non-religious groups, and exam boards. From books to online courses, from conferences to webinars, there is a lot on offer. However, there is a problem, and this relates to the scope and complexity of the subject, and its varied purposes. There are, as it stands, so many ways of ‘doing RE’, each of which requires its own suite of supportive resources. Any funding made available from central government would either be in danger of being diluted across too many CPD providers or would only go to a chosen few providers.
If we cannot seriously tackle the issues facing the RE curriculum, we may find that any investment in teacher CPD might not be as effective as we might like.
Head of RE and Subject Leader for Religious Studies and chair of NATRE