New bursary support secured for RE teacher trainees

A new commitment from the Department for Education to restore bursaries for prospective RE teachers has been welcomed by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) and the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE). 

The new bursary is one of a series of inducements brought in by the Government to help attract more graduates to the teaching profession. The number of RE subject specialists has declined in recent years and RE subject experts suggest this is, in part, down to the decline of state-funded training bursaries.

Subject experts have warned that by not contributing anything towards RE teacher training the Government would see a decline in the quality of religious education in schools . Last year 42 per cent of RE teacher training places were not filled and almost half of RE in secondary schools is delivered by teachers with no subject qualification.     

Both the REC and NATRE as well as representatives of Church College Trusts have pressed hard for Government to restore RE teacher training bursaries. A series of meetings with Ministers and Department for Education officials followed the withdrawal of previous bursary funding. 

REC chair, Joyce Miller, said:

The announcement of bursaries for those starting RE teacher training courses in September 2015 is very welcome and marks a turning point for the subject.  We are pleased the Government has now taken steps to put RE back on an equal footing. Access to bursaries will allow those who want to teach RE to start their training without being financially penalised for choosing such an important subject. We are all under tremendous pressure to make sure young people leave school with a solid understanding of different religious and non-religious beliefs.”

Ed Pawson, chair of NATRE and head of RE at the King’s School, Devon, added:

“It is great news that teacher training bursaries for prospective secondary RE teachers have been brought back, although we are puzzled as to why the figure for RE graduates is less than 50% of that offered to Geography or D&T graduates earning a 2:1 degree. The evidence from the Department for Education’s own workforce survey was always clear: there is a frightening shortfall in qualified RE teachers in our secondary schools. There is an indisputable need to bring more RE teachers into our schools and re-instating bursaries is only the first step towards redressing an imbalance that has existed for far too long.”

Pawson added: “If we want to create a fairer, more respectful society, then religious literacy has to be high on our agenda and it requires skill and expertise to enter into informed, challenging conversations with teenagers about religion.”

The development was also welcomed by RE teacher training specialists at four charities, Culham St Gabriel’s Trust, Keswick Hall Trust, St Luke’s Foundation, St Peter’s Saltley Trust and the Jerusalem Trust, who have collectively funded a one-off £220,000 Common Fund for bursary applications to support any shortfall felt by graduates this year.

The new Government RE bursaries are worth £4,000 a year for students holding an upper second class degree, rising to £9,000 a year for those who have a first class degree.




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Religious Education Council of England and Wales

Established in 1973, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) brings together over 60 national organisations. These comprise academic and professional associations specialising in religions and religious education, as well as individual religion and belief organisations inclusive of the range of faith communities found nationally, including the British Humanist Association. 

REC website:

ReThinkRE Campaign website:

National Association of Teachers of RE

NATRE is the subject teacher association for RE professionals in primary and secondary schools and higher education, providing a focal point for their concerns, a representative voice at national level and publications and courses to promote professional development. NATRE’s Executive consists of a majority of serving teachers from primary and secondary schools who are elected for a three-year term of service. NATRE is a member of, and works in collaboration with, the Religious Education Council for England and Wales and the Council for Subject Associations.

NATRE website: