The lack of religious education teachers in schools means that schoolchildren are increasingly at risk of bigotry, a group is warning the government.
The Religious Education Council (REC) is calling for the Department for Education to offer a higher bursary for applicants wanting to become trainee RE teachers to help boost numbers applying.
The government’s figures show that the teacher training target has been missed for recruiting RE teachers with only 63% of the required numbers recruited last year.
Now a spokesman for the REC says: “Without quality religious education being delivered by a qualified RE teacher who can provide balanced and accurate information about different world views that make up modern Britain, young people are being placed at risk.
“Not only are the children at risk of ignorance that could lead to misunderstanding and bigotry but as they go through life they risk placing their understanding, knowledge and opinions on a source that may perpetuate misleading and inaccurate stereotypes.”
Boost the bursary for trainee RE teachers
The organisation says that the government should boost the bursary for trainee RE teachers to match those who are teaching geography, classics and modern languages who are eligible for up to £25,000 if they have a first or second class degree.
Currently, RE teachers, along with history and music teachers, are eligible for a bursary worth up to £9,000 and just £4,000 for those with a 2:1 degree.
The REC also says that 55% of teachers in schools teaching RE have no higher qualification in the subject with many having no qualification in RE beyond an A-level.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Religious education is compulsory for state funded schools and we have changed the law and requirements in schools so they must promote actively mutual tolerance and respect of those with different beliefs and faiths.”
Call for more ethnic minority headteachers in Scotland
Meanwhile, a call to tackle the lack of ethnic minority headteachers in Scotland has been made by a senior Labour MSP.
Anas Sarwar says that radical measures may be required to ensure that that are more non-white people entering the teaching profession and who subsequently want to achieve positions of power in the education sector.
The former deputy leader of Scottish Labour says that there are only 16 head or deputy headteachers in the country from Asian or black backgrounds.
He adds that even with 4% of Scotland’s population being non-white, just 1% of teachers come from an ethnic minority.
Mr Sarwar told one national newspaper: “Is it because the experience or talent is not there? I don’t believe that is the case and it’s why I want the government to carry out a race audit and not just of the workforce but also of the leadership roles.”
The Scottish government says a working group on diversity within the education sector will be reporting in the next few months.