Is RE a mandatory GCSE subject?

(74 Posts)
tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 17:10:03

Just that really - am trying to find out if I should tackle school or government about this? Thanks.

Clobbered Wed 16-Oct-13 17:12:44

No of course it isn't mandatory but a lot of schools do get everyone to take it (often the 'half course' version).

Why are you so bothered about it? It's not indoctrinating them, just learning something about a range of different religions and ethics - what's wrong with that?

OddBoots Wed 16-Oct-13 17:15:26

As far as I understand it the school must teach RE at KS4 level to any student not withdrawn and must offer an exam for it at GCSE level but if the student/parents want to opt out then they can.


tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 17:19:33

You sound defensive clobbered?

Surely I am allowed to object if I wish to? I would rather have my child concentrate on other subjects that i personally deem more useful to him in the future, that is all.

oddboots very useful info, thank you.

TheBuskersDog Wed 16-Oct-13 17:19:41

My son did not study RE after KS3.

Tommy Wed 16-Oct-13 17:22:24

can't imagine many schools insist on it for GCSE unless it's a faith school

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 17:25:11

tommy that's what's puzzling me, it isn't a faith school and yet apparently it does insist on it, which is why I want to be sure of the facts before I query it.

LIZS Wed 16-Oct-13 17:26:09

no but some schools insist on it. Think it is sometimes perceived as a soft one to get.

friday16 Wed 16-Oct-13 17:30:56

can't imagine many schools insist on it for GCSE unless it's a faith school

It's a legal obligation to teach it, and if it's taught, these days most schools put the kids through a half- or full-course GCSE on general principles. You can withdraw your child from it (although it's actually rather a good essay-based GCSE, so I think that there are soft skills to be gained) but the school is not obliged to provide any alternative teaching in the time that is timetabled.

UnicornsNotRiddenByGrownUps Wed 16-Oct-13 17:32:03

It's a mandatory subject so lots of RE teachers will try to offer a half course or some kind of qualification to ensure the kids get something for their time in class. Ask the school before you start 'tackling the government' hmm. Also try asking about course content, if you haven't done this you may be pleasantly surprised.

Clobbered Wed 16-Oct-13 17:34:58

Defensive, moi? No, but you seem to be looking for a fight....

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 17:41:50

I am not looking for a fight, but I do believe a partnership between schools and parents should allow me to express my opinions. Just in the same way that if I disagree with a government policy I would 'tackle it' by writing to my MP if I felt strongly enough. I have no objection to the content of RE whatsoever, I just don't personally see it as a good use of limited options, (although I do take friday' point about essay writing skills).

Thank you to those who have given me some useful info.

eggyweggies Wed 16-Oct-13 17:45:29

RE was a great GCSE. I don't remember learning about any actual religions beyond year 9, from then on it was all philosophy and ethics type stuff.

showmethemoneyhoney Wed 16-Oct-13 17:45:34

Tbh both my kids of experience of RE is very far removed from how I remember RE at school. Its not just about religion anymore - it covers that alongside ethics and philosophy and both my DC love some of the ethical and moral dilemmas that the subject allows them to discuss. They have covered subjects such as abortion, animal rights, discrimination and war which I believe are all valuable of learning. I believe that schools are obliged to teach it beyond KS3 but I think as a parent you can opt out. My DD loves it so much she's considering doing it at A-Level. We are not a religious family either btw.

showmethemoneyhoney Wed 16-Oct-13 17:46:59

Doh!! Should read valuable areas of learning. Been a long day!

SchrodingersFanny Wed 16-Oct-13 17:49:43

But they won't get any extra time to focus on other subjects, as they still have to do that time for RE anyway. If you withdraw them you have to provide something for them to do, they aren't allowed to use it as private study time.

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 17:50:07

That makes it sound more appealing, thank you. But I still maintain it should be an option, not mandatory. Then DS could weigh up its value compared with other subjects he wants to do.

LaFataMalvagia Wed 16-Oct-13 18:02:18

I know it's the lack of choice you're annoyed about OP but on a positive note if it's the full GCSE R.E. he's doing I don't think its regarded as a 'soft' option at all and it's good preparation if he fancies doing philosophy at A level.

IMO it's better than some of the other compulsary subjects some schools do like general studies a-level or a lot of school IT qualifications.

mummytime Wed 16-Oct-13 18:02:56

My DCs school obey the law and teach it to KS4, and as they have to teach it, they also enter all pupils for at least 1/2 a GCSE (1 paper). Most students choose to sit 2 papers, so may get a whole GCSE.

The RE they do involves studying moral issues, seeing what at least 2 religions say about it, and then in the exam answering questions on them. My DS got a dreadful grade because he somehow forgot it was an RE exam so he was supposed to mention God/Religious belief in the answers.
It doesn't take much time from other subjects and can be a nice extra. (It takes 1 lesson a week.)

meditrina Wed 16-Oct-13 18:05:09

It is school policy, if they are insisting on an exam.

That it must be taught is a requirement in all state schools.

LittleSiouxieSue Wed 16-Oct-13 18:07:08

It surprises me how many issues come up in school when you think you have all bases covered and your research indicates the school will really suit your DC. Believe me this is nowhere near as galling as a school offering a subject at GCSE and then not offering it at A level when continuation of the subject is vital to your DCs university applications. This is truly naughty as changing schools may be the only option. Half and R E GCSE not too much of a sacrifice but you should have known beforehand so you can make a informed decision if this is the school for you or not. They all have their quirks though .

meditrina Wed 16-Oct-13 18:07:31

Oh, forgot to mention, DS's school teaches it from year 9 onwards like an intro to philosophy course - it's definitely about different approaches to big questions.

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 18:24:38

Tbh siouxsie it never occurred to me to ask - I just made some assumptions when we chose the school which with hindsight I can see I should not have done. Fortunately, it's not a huge deal, unlike the situation you describe shock.

Anyway, reading all your replies has made me much more relaxed about it grin.

titchy Wed 16-Oct-13 18:32:52

Even if you opted him out of the actual GCSE he'd still have it on his timetable as others have said its compulsory, as are maths, English, science, citizenship and PE.

My dd is debating abortion and euthanasia as part of her RE lessons - don't knock it!

TheGervasuttiPillar Wed 16-Oct-13 18:36:48

As has been said above, the only three compulsory subjects at GCSE are English, maths and science.

Some schools make all kids do a GCSE in RE in addition to the above three. A school local to use does this, though it does not say so in their literature, which can cause some friction with those that did not know.

I think it helps their stats. It also has the obvious effect of taking away a GCSE option from those kids who don't really want to do RE.

knitknack Wed 16-Oct-13 18:38:04

A school can make ANY subject it likes a 'core' GCSE (ie one that all students take). It's up to THEM not the government (although they can't opt out of the ones the government DOES rule on, such as English or Maths). You'll have to find another school if you object that much.

You do realise that RE (or Religious ethics and Philosophy as it's more widely known) is a FANTASTIC GCSE to prepare students for A Level/uni don't you? I'm a history teacher and I hugely value the contribution that RE makes to students' ability to argue and write coherent, meaningful essays.

They also debate ethical issues that society NEEDS them to consider such as abortion or euthanasia... why on earth would you not want that??

The religious aspect is important too. We're looking at terrorism in the modern world in history at the moment, I can't imagine trying to teach that (surely one of the most relevant subjects I can teach in history, in terms of students' lives in the modern world) with a group of kids who DON'T know the basic beliefs of and differences between muslims, christians and jews...

... not to mention the other religions that they study.

Again - why WOULD you not want that? Studying world religions is VERY different to 'doing Christianity', which is NOT was RP&E is these days.

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 19:07:59's not that I wouldn't want it knitknack, I just think he might want other things more and there is a limit to how much he can do.

And at the risk of sounding unbearably smug, we talk about all that stuff at home already - maybe not to same degree, but it is stuff I think I can cover more as he gets older. Other subjects, I don't stand a chance.

KatyMac Wed 16-Oct-13 19:44:50

I pulled DD out of RE (Citizenship & Ethics) because she was doing enough GCSEs IMO (she already has the equivalent of 6 & is taking another 7) I didn't think she needed RE & IT on top of that.

More recently we have pulled her from one of the classes as part of flexi-schooling; which is helping but doesn't solve DD's problems

englishteacher78 Wed 16-Oct-13 19:50:28

It doesn't really help the stats much anymore because RS is not part of Gove's EBacc. Although at the same time he insists it must be taught in some way through KS4. At my school it is covered in PSHE and PD lessons and then RSS is offered at GCSE level as an option. It is actually growing in popularity at the moment as more of the students become aware of the philosophy element of the course.

friday16 Wed 16-Oct-13 20:15:19

But I still maintain it should be an option, not mandatory.

Then good luck repealing primary legislation, specifically S.80(1)(a) of the 2002 Education Act. That traces back to the 1944 Education Act (S.25 et seq, if we're keeping score) via the 1996 At (S.376-ish, I can't quite recall) and, I suspect, to earlier legislation on school boards, although I've never looked it up. It was the price exacted by the established Church for folding their schools into the state system, and it's unimaginable it could be repealed without nuclear warfare (the CofE own a lot of real estate, and could if it wanted to take its ball home close the schools and sell the land for housing).

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 20:34:40

But friday it isn't mandatory at GCSE for all pupils, inspite of that impressive sounding legislation. Interested to get the background though - that explains why it gets special treatment over, say, history or geography.

Snowfedup Wed 16-Oct-13 20:37:14

I loved RE it was interesting and we learnt about all religions which only further confirmed my atheism (although was lucky to have a brilliant teacher who taught us to critically analyse all the inconsistencies in different religious teachings)

I'm really glad I did it as I love to discuss argue the fine points of theology even now (and often know more about for example the bible than some Christian friends)

bsc Wed 16-Oct-13 20:51:43

It is mandatory to study it! It's just not mandatory to sit the GCSE exam.

Our school do a course that is mostly philosophy and ethics, and they only have 1 lesson a week. Those that will manage do the full GCSE exam, others the half GCSE, and those that won't manage it aren't entered at all- there's no pressure put on the pupils in terms of their other subjects that way.

BTW- loads, really loads go on to do it in our 6th form (I think half the 6th form last year!) Obviously because it's a good course, and complements many AS/A2 s too- the AS/A2 we do is also more ethics/philosophy too.

friday16 Wed 16-Oct-13 21:02:07

"But friday it isn't mandatory at GCSE for all pupils"

So instead they could study it, but not do the GCSE. If that makes you happy. Speaking as a hardline atheist who can find Papists under any bed, it's a good GCSE, well taught in my kids' school.

But then, I've read your thread on your views on ICT. Speaking as a thirty year IT industry veteran with a first degree in computer science, now taking a sabbatical to do a full-time PhD in computer science, I'd rather my kids did GCSE RS. You, obviously, know better, and I defer to your deeper knowledge.

NoComet Wed 16-Oct-13 21:03:03

My DD has ended up doing full GCSE because the half course exam disappeared or something. Seems to be a GCSE for not a lot of effort so she's not complaining.

Schools are great at time wasting, assemblies, RE, PHSE, Welsh, French, Shakespeare, Lord of the Flies, Hockey, Netball, Careers, needlework, cookery all these were a considerable waste of my time.

NoComet Wed 16-Oct-13 21:04:27

ICT is appallingly badly taught and another frequent waste of time.

TheBuskersDog Wed 16-Oct-13 21:31:04

Well my son's school must be breaking the law, he did RE/PSHE in years 7 and 8, this was replaced by Citizenship in years 9 and 10 with the exam at the end of year 10. In year 11 he studied only English, Maths, Triple Science, his chosen GCSEs and ICT.

Ohwhatwitcheryisthis Wed 16-Oct-13 21:35:09

Dd's academy have opted out of the exam. It's great, they have gone from a frankly boring syllabus (what do Christians/Muslims/Jews believe about ....) practice for half a sodding gcse. Now they choose what they want to talk about. This week conspiracy theories, next week the banking crisis. They get the rare opportunity to have a mature debate about things outside the national curriculum and explore the wider world. previously it was oh shit is re-now its- oh great its ppre. not saying re doesn't have is place in understanding the world, but it was soooo dull and frankly not relevant. (as laid down in the NC not the school btw)

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 22:02:08

friday not sure what I have said to deserve that amount of spleen? I just would prefer my DS to learn more computing rather than Philosophy and was seeking advice on how best to broach this with the school. I feel bewildered now.

friday16 Wed 16-Oct-13 22:12:15

I just would prefer my DS to learn more computing rather than Philosophy

Which is funny, because here in computer science, we'd rather people learnt more Philosophy. Seriously: we have joint research programs with them. We'd also like people to be able to write essays, which they might get a leg up with. We couldn't give a toss about any of the content of GCSE ICT, which is almost completely worthless.

Unexpected Wed 16-Oct-13 22:46:13

You needed to check which subjects were mandatory at GCSE in your particular school before your dc started. My dc attend a faith school so RE GCSE is mandatory, I'd rather dc did something else but it's a humanity (well, not if you are Michael Gove), it teaches them to debate, see different viewpoints etc and it is not a particularly difficult GCSE so what's not to like really? I would much rather that they didn't have to do IT GCSE at their school which I DO think is a waste of time (the course content, not IT per se) as they seem to have spent five years getting to a point of competence which my dc, and probably many others in the year, passed somewhere in Year 8.

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 22:49:47

You may find it funny, friday, I do not unfortunately.

If you could share any of your wisdom on how to encourage a child who wants a career in computers, I would be very grateful, since it hadn't occurred to me that choosing RE over ICT was the obvious first step.

OddBoots Wed 16-Oct-13 22:52:58

If someone wants to work in and has an aptitude for computers then they would be beyond the GCSE ICT syllabus well before they were 16. The new upcoming computer science GCSE is a different matter but the old ICT is almost pointless for most people.

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 22:53:15

unexpected I have already admitted that error, but as it wasn't a faith school it just didn't occur to me.

How did your DC achieve their competence? Without anyone in the family to help, relying on self tuition feels like a big gamble.

mummytime Wed 16-Oct-13 23:13:46

My DS is at a specialist computing and engineering school, he dropped ICT as soon as he could. No one was bothered when he wanted to study for a BTec in IT.
He learnt by playing games, then working on Minecraft and adapting others code, coding in Scratch. And the other key skill is Maths, which is what good Universities are looking for.

Colleges he looked at did want to ensure he knew IT was nothing like school ICT.

tougholdbird Wed 16-Oct-13 23:25:19

Thanks mummytime - sounds like best thing I can do is stop stressing about the school and what they are teaching and crack on with encouraging DS to upload minecraft to the raspi and muddle through it with him as best I can!

Thanks all - this has been very enlightening smile

friday16 Wed 16-Oct-13 23:33:54

a child who wants a career in computers

Is it that they want it, or you want it for them? If they want it, they'll figure it out. Job with Google? Good PhD in computer science. To do computer science at university, the requirement is maths, maths, maths, maths. There are very few serious computer science courses that don't require an A or A* in A Level Maths. Even they need a pretty good excuse as to why you haven't got it, and teach you equivalent maths in the first year as an extra requirement.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 16-Oct-13 23:54:03

Depends what you mean by 'a career in computers' - I've written software for a living for over 25 years, hardly any formal training ... the entry level qualification for the sort of stuff I write is a PhD in chemistry because that's what our software is about, learning to code is the relatively easy part. (and yes, maths is essential). If he's interested in the hardware side I'd guess physics would be essential and electronics, if available, would be good.

DDs school would probably suit your DS ... RE GCSE not mandatory, they do a combination of RE/citizenship/PSHE/'beyond the curriculum' whatever that is for a total of an hour (or maybe two) a week during ks4, nothing like half a gcse's worth, nothing onerous. She would have liked to do it for GCSE despite (or because of) being a self-declared atheist, but not as much as she wanted to do computer science and electronics. (Apart from its being a girls' school, that is!)

englishteacher78 Thu 17-Oct-13 05:18:50

Upthread someone suggested their school was breaking the law as did Citizenship not RSS at KS4. The KS4 requirements for RS can be met through 'citizenship'. We meet ours through a one hour a week lesson called 'personal development' which runs alongside the option RSS.

thatmum48 Thu 17-Oct-13 08:44:03

My son goes to a RC comprehensive school and they are forced to pick re for one of their 4 gcse subjects. Basically meaning they only have 3 choices. I do find this rather irritable to be frank.

Tommy Thu 17-Oct-13 10:36:55

presumably though, thatmum48, you don't have to send him to the Catholic school.....

ErrolTheDragon Thu 17-Oct-13 10:56:43

>presumably though, thatmum48, you don't have to send him to the Catholic school.....

In some places you might have to.

friday16 Thu 17-Oct-13 12:15:47

In some places you might have to.

No choice but to send them to an RC secondary school? That would be extremely unusual, to put it mildly. Could you suggest somewhere that that's true?

ErrolTheDragon Thu 17-Oct-13 12:36:28

Yup, I've heard of it happening - not just on MN either. There are areas with a shortage of school places overall but undersubscribed faith schools. Don't know whether thatmum chose the RC school or not, but we can't presume she did.

OP you would be very lucky if a secondary school offers computer science. Most will try to steer you towards ICT which can be very dull and undemanding and is not an academic preparation for computer science (as someone else said the more maths the better).

My DS1 is a fervent atheist but loved the RE GCSE because of it's philosophy content. His school ended up cancelling the RE class to allow the students to use the time for core subjects, but a few including DS carried on at an after school class.

tougholdbird Thu 17-Oct-13 16:13:36

From what I have read about the 2014 curriculum, schools should be offering GCSE in computer science. I will ask our school if they will be doing this.

Talkinpeace Thu 17-Oct-13 16:27:42

RE is *not compulsory in KS4
neither as a GCSE nor a lesson
unless the school is a faith school

any non faith school will be able to provide you with the 'opt out form' so that your child does not need to attend RE lessons in Year 10 and 11

Talkinpeace Thu 17-Oct-13 16:36:08

Information link here .....

DCs school handed the form to anybody who wanted it - as it frees up their timetable space.
Daft that more schools do not do the same.

Arisbottle Thu 17-Oct-13 16:45:53

More schools probably do not do the same because they see the inherent value in the subject, they would struggle to find a way to accommodate the children elsewhere without providing extra teachers and not spending more money. The children removed are also supposed to have an alternative arranged which suits their RE needs.

EverythingIsSoThrowback Thu 17-Oct-13 16:50:43

No, but my DD1 tells me it's very interesting.

friday16 Thu 17-Oct-13 16:53:41

schools should be offering GCSE in computer science

They can, not should. It'll be interesting to find out how many schools actually offer it. The main problem's staffing.

Talkinpeace Thu 17-Oct-13 16:57:40

GCSE computer science is worthless.
Kids need sound maths, good logic and the willingness to try.

tougholdbird Thu 17-Oct-13 17:06:52

I have read that all pupils must have the opportunity to study GCSE computer science, but no doubt you are right * friday*.

talk do you mean the revised curriculum GCSE will be worthless, or are you just talking about what has gone before?

friday16 Thu 17-Oct-13 17:10:59

GCSE computer science is worthless.

I think that's a bit harsh. It's O Level Computer Studies circa 1979, and none the worse for that. If well taught, I can't see it would do any harm. The syllabus looks roughly sensible, and if everyone arriving in the first year of a computer science degree had that knowledge the world would be a better place. It would also filter out the people who it turns out don't enjoy programming.

The problem is that it's unlikely to be well-taught, and we'll end up in the position of law or sociology, where it's so badly taught at A Level that they'd actively prefer people to arrive as tabula rasa. We'll see how it all works out over the next few years, I think.

titchy Thu 17-Oct-13 17:12:43

OP have you actually looked at university requirements for Computer Science degrees? They don't even require A Level Computer Science, let alone GCSE Comp Sci or ICT! What they want are very very very good Maths skills.

Little Johnny is really not going to be disadvantaged by not doing it at GCSE. He might however be disadvantaged by an inability to debate, discuss and listen to others, all of which can be demonstrated through the RE and Ethics curriculum.

titchy Thu 17-Oct-13 17:18:04

Agree good to filter out those that don't actually like programming and think 'doing something with computers' means playing games and apps all day!

friday16 Thu 17-Oct-13 18:13:39

What they want are very very very good Maths skills.

Indeed. There's a straightforward correlation between degree classification and A Level Maths grade, far more so than any other qualification.

He might however be disadvantaged by an inability to debate, discuss and listen to others, all of which can be demonstrated through the RE and Ethics curriculum.

Today I saw the panic in the eyes of a bunch of third years when it was suggested they might like to write an essay.

Their competitors at US universities will have done freshman comp. It matters.

tougholdbird Thu 17-Oct-13 18:36:18

Really useful to hear all this - thanks all, and I freely admit it sounds like I have been focused on the wrong things.

Off now to hover anxiously over Little Johnny's maths homework and sign him up for debating club.....grin

friday16 Thu 17-Oct-13 18:50:00

I have read that all pupils must have the opportunity to study GCSE computer science

How many secondary schools are there in your area which are still in LEA control and therefore subject to the national curriculum?

titchy Thu 17-Oct-13 18:54:19

grin At maths and debating club!!! Top tip when it comes to it - do NOT put on UCAS personal statement 'I want to do this subject because I am really good at and love computer games'.....

friday16 Thu 17-Oct-13 19:19:05

Further top tip: "Computer Games Design" as a degree subject. hmm

Talkinpeace Thu 17-Oct-13 19:45:29

Friday16 It most certainly is and a friend of mine is a lecturer in it.
The employment prospects of their graduates are rather excellent.
The entry requirements are minimum 3 Cs at Al level including Maths.

LaFataMalvagia Thu 17-Oct-13 19:56:03

YY to what talkinpeace said, my brother did 'Digital Media Development' at Brighton (stupid name but great course) and has never struggled to find website design work, he had various different people offering him work before his course was even over (did lots of good placements)

suecardiff Thu 26-Jun-14 12:04:34

Your chance to have your say on the National Curriculum for Wales.

Closes on 30th June so be quick!!!

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