A Reminder of the Problem
Earlier this year I wrote a blog titled ‘Why GCSE RE Fails Pupils.’ It illustrated how poor content and perverse assessment in popular GCSE RE courses, neglect and distort religion, and argued that the number of routes available to achieve a GCSE in RE has encouraged a race to the bottom and rendered the notion of it as a qualification meaningless. Yet, whilst the current GCSE situation may be indefensible, it is not without its perks for some. It is therefore, no surprise, that as proposals for a future, more rigorous GCSE emerge, previously masked fears and vulnerabilities are surfacing.
A Head of RE once recounted to me how at the start of year INSET, her headteacher had given her a bottle of wine and praised her. The reason for this was that both she personally and also her RE department, had achieved the best GCSE residuals in the school. Requests to observe her soon poured in from other teachers asking ‘how do you get such great results in an hour a week?’ ‘How do you get the children so engaged in your subject?’ After weeks of dodging observation requests, and pretending that she possessed some sort of magic beans, she decided to come clean. Whenever a colleague asked if they could observe her GCSE lessons, she gave them an exam paper and mark scheme and told them that if they still wanted to watch her after reading it, they would be welcome. No one came. Whilst admirably, this teacher was honest, others have ridden the wave of dumbed down courses, in order to enhance their reputation and responsibilities, and even to elevate themselves into senior leadership roles. These are the Deputy Heads, who wink at the RE teachers on GCSE results day, insiders on the secret, the great charade.
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