Ofsted reports on RE in schools, November 2023

1 December 2023

Ofsted reports on over 2,000 school inspections over the previous year, reaching some difficult conclusions for Religious Education.

A general comment

in too many primary and secondary schools, the religious education (RE) that pupils receive is of a poor quality and not fit for purpose, leaving pupils ill-equipped for some of the complexities of contemporary society.

In a later section:

Religious education

RE in schools is generally of poor quality. Although it is a statutory subject, schools often consider RE as an afterthought. As a subject on the curriculum, it is under-valued. RE is a complex subject, and the lack of clarity and support from government makes schools’ job harder.
Some schools steer through these challenges well, but most do not. We found that:

  • many schools do not meet the statutory requirement to teach RE at all stages
  • pupils are rarely taught enough substance to prepare them to engage in a complex, multi-religious and multi-secular society (where religion and non-religion play different parts in different people’s lives)
  • too often, schools do not teach topics in the RE curriculum deeply enough for pupils to develop a substantial understanding of the subject matter

non-examined RE is typically not high quality.
All pupils should develop a broad and secure knowledge of the complexity of religious and non-religious traditions. It will take coordinated effort by stakeholders to improve the quality of RE in schools:

  • schools need high-quality professional development to teach RE well
  • curriculum publishers need to identify clearly what pupils will learn and when, building on knowledge over time, so that pupils develop a deep knowledge of the chosen religious and non-religious traditions
  • the government should provide clear expectations about RE provision in schools. Schools should follow these. Current non-statutory guidance for RE should be updated and include clear information for schools about the breadth and depth of the syllabus they are expected to teach.