Falling numbers of religious studies students as hundreds of schools drop it all together

Falling numbers of religious studies students as hundreds of schools drop it all together by Staff writer  for Christian Today

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Religious studies is at risk of becoming an “endangered” subject, academics have warned, after research found that it has disappeared off the curriculum in hundreds of non-faith schools.

Between 2017 and 2018, the total number of students taking GCSE religious studies fell from 253,712 to 229,189, according to figures in a new report by Dr David Lundie, of Liverpool Hope University, and UCL Institute of Education Research Fellow Dr Mi Young Ahn.

At the same time, 701 schools stopped offering GCSE religious studies altogether, with a noticeable distinction between secular and faith schools.

“Religious character is becoming increasingly significant, with 95% of students in Roman Catholic schools being entered for GCSE RS, compared with 68% in Church of England schools and only 30% in schools without a religious character,” the report authors said.

“Much of the drop in GCSE entry in 2018 is in schools without a religious character, suggesting that the subject may soon become endangered as a mainstream option outside the faith sector.”

The researchers also identified a social difference between the schools that offer religious studies and those that do not.

“Students attending schools with higher levels of free school meal entitlement (an approximate measure of students in poverty) are less likely to have the opportunity to take GCSE religious studies,” they said.

“This may suggest socio-economic barriers to accessing RS.”

They added, however, that this could not be entirely explained by the demographics of schools with a religious character.

“Even among schools without a religious character, there is evidence suggesting schools that offer GCSE RS have fewer disadvantaged pupils, on average, than schools that do not offer the subject,” they said.

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