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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I Inform Parents and carers about RE?


Religious Education:  Frequently Asked Questions

All Hertfordshire Schools, other than Voluntary Aided schools, must be working with the Hertfordshire Agreed Syllabus.

Why isn't RE part of the National Curriculum?

Religious education in its various forms (Scripture, Divinity, Religious Instruction/Knowledge) has been a compulsory subject in English schools since 1944. Indeed at that time it was the only compulsory subject. The National Curriculum was introduced much later, with the Education Reform Act of 1988. At this point RE became part of the basic curriculum which is an entitlement for every student. The basic curriculum is RE plus the national curriculum.

So why isn't RE determined nationally, like every other subject?

The 1944 Education Act (the Butler Act) required each local authority to produce an Agreed Syllabus for religious education. This syllabus was to be followed in every local authority school (excluding aided schools, and those where the trust deed specified otherwise). SACREs (Standing Advisory Councils on Religious Education) were to be appointed to advise the local authority on teaching methods, teaching materials and the in-service training of teachers. In 1988 it was decided to uphold these arrangements, leaving the responsibility for RE with local authorities in order to take account of local and regional variations.

What is the Agreed Syllabus?

This is the document approved by an Agreed Syllabus Conference and adopted by the Local Authority. It identifies what should be taught within the authority and how it should be assessed. It has the same legal standing as any other subject orders.

Is the Agreed Syllabus ever reviewed?

It is a legal requirement to review of the Agreed Syllabus every five years. In Hertfordshire this involves extensive consultation with teachers, faith communities and other interested parties. This ensures that current priorities can be incorporated into the syllabus. The current Hertfordshire syllabus was reviewed and agreed in 2006.  SACRE has just agreed a one year extension to this and so the next review will be completed in 2012.

Where can I get a copy?

Following a review every school is issued with an updated version of the syllabus. There is an electronic version available on the Hertfordshire Schools Intranet (which is only available from within a Hertfordshire school) on the RE Publications page  and further hard copies can be ordered for £10 from:

Action Point
Hertfordshire Development Centre
Robertson House
Six Hills Way
Tel: 01438 845141
Fax: 01707 292407

Orders from Hertfordshire Schools will be sent via schools' courier service.
If you are not a Hertfordshire School but would like to order this publication it can be ordered from the above address, price £13 plus £2.00 p&p - if ordering more than one copy please call Action Point to check cost of p&p.

Cheques payable to Hertfordshire County Council must be included with your order. Please note that we cannot issue an invoice for orders less than £50.00. We are able to issue a receipt once payment has been received - please indicate when ordering if you require a receipt.

Who has to follow the Hertfordshire Agreed Syllabus?

In Community Schools and Foundation and Voluntary Schools without a religious character, RE must be provided in accordance with the Hertfordshire Agreed Syllabus.

 In Foundation and Voluntary Schools with a religious character the Hertfordshire Agreed Syllabus must be used unless parents request denominational teaching.

In Voluntary Aided Schools with a religious character, the required provision for RE is:

      • According to the trust deed of the school; or
      • According to the tenets of the religion or religious denomination 9where provision is not specified in the trust deed); or
      • According to the Hertfordshire Agreed Syllabus where parents request  it (if a child cannot reasonably attend a school where the Agreed Syllabus is being taught)

Is it possible to use an Agreed Syllabus from another authority?

No. Schools may obviously refer to other documents for ideas and inspiration, but they must be able to show that their planning, teaching and assessment are in accordance with the Hertfordshire Agreed Syllabus.

Do all students have to study RE?

Yes. All students on roll must study RE (from 4 to 19). This is not an option. However parents may ask to withdraw their son or daughter from all or part of the RE provision and the school must comply. Senior managers or subject leaders would usually want to discuss possibilities with parents, although this is not a requirement and parents need give no reason for their request. In Early Years, RE is integral to EYFS, but in Reception, it must be taught in accordance with the Agreed Syllabus.

A parent has asked if their child can be withdrawn from parts of RE which deal with a particular faith – can they do this?

Yes. If the parent asks that a pupil should be wholly or partly excused from attending any RE at the school, then the school must comply:
(Education Reform Act 1988, s.9)

Further guidance on the right to withdraw can be found on the SACRE pages of the Hertfordshire Grid for Learning:

Does an examination course count as RE provision in key stage 4?

In Hertfordshire schools, all students in Key Stage 4 must have the opportunity to follow an accredited course in Religious Studies. This could be Full, Short or Entry Level. Whether or not the student is entered for a public examination is at the schools discretion.  However, it is expected that where the course has been studied that pupils will have the opportunity to attain the qualification.
Schools are expected to offer a full GCSE in Religious Studies as an examination option and to provide it for viable groups of pupils who wish to take it.

How much time has to be allocated to RE?

Time allocation for collective worship / assemblies must be separate from that allocated to Religious Education
The Hertfordshire Agreed Syllabus requires a minimum time allocation of curriculum time distributed throughout the key stage.  This gives schools the opportunity to be flexible in their approach to planning.







10 hours per term in reception

60 hours (over 2 years)

156 hours (over 4 years)

135 hours (over 3 years)

60 hours (over 2 years)

12 hours (one year course)
24 hours (2 year course)

Is it possible to give more time to RE in one year and not teach it in another?

No. The legislation requires that RE is taught in every year, so it is not possible to plan for RE in Years 7 and 8 and not in Year 9. In Key Stage 4 pupils must study RE in Year 10 and Year 11. Provision must also be made in Year 12 and Year 13.

What is expected post-16?

Provision can be creative. For example RE can be offered through full day events, conferences, or within a general studies programme.

Can I offer RE through PSHE, Humanities and/or Citizenship?

Schools are free to make their own arrangements, but must ensure that the distinctive character, skills and knowledge identified in the Agreed Syllabus are not lost or diluted. Schools must also be aware that RE must be withdrawable from; in other words, RE provision must be clearly identifiable so that pupils can be withdrawn on request. At Key Stage 4, students should be following a Religious Studies specification.

Where can I find a list of places of worship that I can visit with my class?

Hertfordshire SACRE provides, and regularly updates, a Faith Communities Directory which contains details of places of worship and visiting speakers from all six principal religions. 

I've heard that RE is changing – is that true?

No. Although QCA developed the Non-statutory Framework for Religious Education in 2005 this document is intended to support the work of SACREs and is not for use in individual schools. There is continuing discussion about the arrangements for RE and its local status. However the law has not changed, and the legal requirement to follow the locally Agreed Syllabus will continue for the foreseeable future. This is not affected by the secondary curriculum review of 2009.

Is RE still relevant?

More so than ever! The news presents ever more challenging issues relating to beliefs, values and behaviours on a daily basis. The programmes of study require that students
learn about and learn from religion and beliefs. When asked, students themselves rate RE as an important discipline to prepare them for work and society.

What happens if I don't have all this in place?

Pupils are not receiving their entitlement, and are missing out on knowledge, skills and
understanding which will support their development into adults with essential spiritual, moral, social and cultural understanding and skills. In addition, religious education makes a real contribution to the community cohesion agenda in the school.
Many jobs and professions draw on the skills and knowledge gained through RE. Being religiously educated is becoming increasingly important for those seeking to work in medicine, social services, the police and armed forces and indeed in any area where there is contact with the public. In a shrinking world being religiously educated is important in our social lives, but perhaps most of all, the ability to reflect on spiritual and moral issues in the light of the experience of the world's faiths and philosophies is important for our personal well-being.

Thriving and vibrant RE is a hallmark of an outstanding school.

Where can I get more detailed support and guidance?

The Hertfordshire Grid for Learning RE pages includes schemes of work, guidance documents and resources.