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New research finds we spend less than £1 a year per pupil on R.E.

Date: 22/02/2012

In a month where religion has been high up the public agenda, new research co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) shows that this vital subject is at the bottom of the pile when it comes to educating our children with less than £1 per year spent on each pupil in school.

At the second of the Westminster Faith Debates this evening, Professor James Conroy will present conclusions from an in-depth study of 24 schools across the UK as part of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme. He found that Religious Education in Britain is drastically under-resourced, torn between competing aims, and is gradually becoming the dumping ground of the curriculum. Far from being a lesson about religion, helping students understand their own and other's beliefs, it has now become a catch all lesson which covers everything from sex to citizenship. It's also quite often dependent on the head's own feeling on the subject.

Schools spend less money and less time than on any other examination subject. This is despite it being the main space for young people to grapple with the big questions of life, understand our religious heritage, and develop as independent thinkers in a deeply diverse society.

Conroy said Whilst governments insist on RE's importance in theory, they marginalise it in practice, as Michael Gove has recently done by refusing to treat it as a core subject. He called this a fatal ambivalence.

Richard Dawkins and Bishop John Pritchard will respond to the research from Conroy and Bob Jackson at the debate this evening.


The Westminster Faith debates are designed to bring the best academic research into the public eye, making the very topical debates on the role of religion in society more informed on subjects from extremism to multiculturalism, welfare reform to religious freedom. All details are available on the website:http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates

The Westminster Faith Debates are organised by The AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society programme, Charles Clarke and Theos.

James Conroy is professor of Religious and Philosophical Education at the University of Glasgow

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,100 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. We support independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. At any one time, we support over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes. www.esrc.ac.uk

The Religion and Society Research Programme is a collaborative venture between the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council. Together, these UK government funded research councils have contributed £12m to fund research of the highest quality on the interrelationships between religion and society. The Programme started in January 2007 and finishes December 2012. It has funded over 70 original projects across the arts, humanities and social sciences in three phases, with Phase 2 focused on Youth and Religion. Four types of projects (large grants; small grants; collaborative studentships; networks and workshops) have been funded. These awards are held across UK universities. Research is historical as well as contemporary in focus and many projects are investigating international contexts. www.religionandsociety.org.uk

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