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Religious Education

Volume 554: debated on Monday 3 December 2012

Ofstedā€™s subject report in 2010 found that religious education teaching was not good enough, but teacher quality is improving. In 2012-13, 78% of religious education teacher trainees held a 2:1 or higher degree classification, compared with just 70% in 2011-12.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that answer. If he believes that the best way to achieve academic rigour is through the English baccalaureate, is he willing to reconsider the inclusion of religious education as a core subject, at least for faith schools, in order that they can uphold their ethos and parental choice, as well as their high educational standards?

I have enormous respect for the right hon. Gentleman. He is a stout advocate for faith schools and I want to underline the important role that they play in state education. We have no plans to change the English baccalaureate, not least because religious education remains a compulsory subject in the national curriculum. Well taught, it can take its place alongside the subjects in the English baccalaureate in a broad and balanced education.

My right hon. Friend will know that I value faith schools and the teaching of religious education. However, what steps is he taking to ensure that religious hatred is not taught by some faith schools and religious teachers?

My hon. Friend has a distinguished record in fighting extremism of all kinds. That is why I am delighted to be able to say that we have set up a due diligence unit in the Department for Education to prevent extremism. It has staff from the security services and elsewhere, and will ensure that public money is not abused by those who would preach hate rather than love.

To follow on from the answers to the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) about the need for specialist teaching, the number of institutions training religious education teachers has declined. Will the Department keep a constant review on the number of teachers entering the profession in subjects that are outside the EBacc to ensure that there is adequate expertise across the specialisms?

My hon. Friend is quite right to hold my feet to the fire on that. The headcount for religious education teachers at key stage 4 has increased over the lifetime of the Government from 10,400 to 10,700 and there are two applicants for every available post for a religious education teacher, so there is no evidence of a decline in numbers or quality.