53% England & Wales adults say RE should remain compulsory school subject; 32% disagree
Just over half of all adults in England and Wales who gave an opinion say religious education (RE) should remain a compulsory school subject up to age 16, and a similar percentage feel that it is beneficial for all pupils to participate in RE lessons, our poll of 1,825 English and Welsh adults has found. Just under a third disagrees that the subject should be compulsory.
- Over half (53%) of adults in England and Wales think that RE should be a compulsory subject in state-funded schools; 32% disagree that it should be compulsory
- 58% think it is beneficial for pupils to study RE (33% say it's neither harmful nor beneficial, while just 9% say it's harmful)
- Exactly half (50%) of adults think RE provides a valuable space in the school day where young people can learn about all religious and non-religious beliefs
- 33% say that RE has the same credibility as other humanities subjects, such as English, History or Geography; 15% disagree
- 50% agree that RE promotes 'mutual respect, tolerance and understanding'
- 13% feel that RE should not be taught in schools and that pupils wanting to study it should do so in their own time
Younger adults seem more amenable than other age groups to RE in schools.
- 63% of 18–24 year olds say RE is beneficial, compared to a low of 54% among the 45-54 age group
- Similarly, 63% of 18-24 year olds say RE should be a compulsory, funded subject, compared to 57% of those aged 60 and above, and a low of 45% among the 35-44s
'Appreciating a range of beliefs'
RE has been on the National Curriculum since 1944, and in that time has changed from 'Biblical Study' to include world religions and non-religious worldviews.
In response to the survey, John Keast, chair of the REC commented on the findings: “RE is a core part of the education system and we and our member bodies are committed to offering all the support we can muster to help schools deliver high value RE. Our ambition is to promote widespread understanding of how academically rigorous and personally inspiring good RE can be and how it equips young people to appreciate a range of religious and non-religious beliefs in our world.
"It’s positive to see such a strong belief in the importance of the subject among the public," he said.
Established in 1973, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) brings together some fifty national academic and professional organisations specialising in religions and religious education.
A national organisation, its members include the Church of England, the Catholic Church, the Free Churches, the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and Bahá’í faiths, the British Humanist Association and professional teaching associations.