Unique Study Heralds New Era for Religious Education

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A unique study into the history of religious education broadcasting may help inform the way in which the subject is taught in schools.

The research at the University of Worcester, funded by a £219,050 grant from the Leverhulme Trust, is set to uncover the history of religious broadcasting in the UK since 1920. In turn, resources and curriculum materials will be uncovered that will help revitalise the teaching of religious education.

As well as evaluating the material that broadcasters make available to teachers, the study will examine reports from the BBC and independent producers on how their programmes have been used in schools. It will address the fundamental questions of how RE is taught and the part it plays in education and society.

Professor David Green, the University of Worcester’s Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive “All of us at the University are truly delighted that this exciting study led by Dr. Stephen Parker will be funded to the tune of nearly a quarter of a million pounds by the Leverhulme Trust. Dr. Parker is an outstanding researcher and educationalist. This, his latest study, is sure to lead to a series of fascinating insights and publications which will serve society well.”

There is a long-held view that RE is a Cinderella subject, under-resourced and neglected, says Dr Stephen Parker, senior lecturer in the University’s Institute of Education, who is leading the study.

“Many of the coalition government’s policies have had a direct and negative effect on religious education,” says Dr Parker whose acclaimed PhD thesis was on “Faith and the Home Front.”

He cites as examples RE’s exclusion from the national curriculum review, the fact that it is not to be included in the new EBacc qualification, and that GCSE RE short courses are not counted in the proposed ‘performance 8’ measure for schools.

“Though RE has been compulsory since the 1944 Education Act, its place in the future of education has been made insecure,” he adds.

“The time for the review and an in-depth study of the history of RE broadcasting is very opportune. The RE community would welcome a positive affirmation of its place in the curriculum and an open dialogue about the best ways to reform the teaching and bring it up to date.”

The study will examine broadcasting by the BBC and independent companies, including programmes that were prepared but not aired. It will chart the history of RE broadcasting from its inception on the radio in the 1920s to the contemporary documentaries on different religious traditions and the resources now available on the internet.

Photograph: Dr Stephen Parker and the University of Worcester's Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor David Green