The Board of Deputies is to urge the government to include religious studies as one of the core subjects for the new English Baccalaureate Certificate.
Students will gain the new qualification to replace GCSEs — which was announced by Education Secretary Michael Gove this week — if they pass exams in English, maths, science, history or geography and a language.
But Board chief executive Jon Benjamin noted that there was “no mention of religious studies” in the Department for Education’s newly issued consultation document.
“We will be raising this matter with the department, which is effectively a continuation of our previous lobbying efforts to include RS as a core syllabus subject,” he said.
Patrick Moriarty, acting head teacher of the Jewish Community Secondary School, said that it welcomed “in principle any changes which will safeguard academic rigour at 16-plus” although the school “would be concerned if the effect is to limit students’ options”.
Mr Moriarty added: “All our students follow public examination courses in religious studies as part of their Jewish education curriculum. We would hope that, if the government’s proposals become a reality, the outstanding intellectual training and skills developed in RS will be recognised as a full part of the English Baccalaureate.”
At present, students who pass GCSEs in the five core subjects are considered to have gained an “EBacc” — which is a nominal award rather than a qualification in its own right.
Jonathan Miller, headmaster of JFS, said: “At JFS, 100 per cent of students sit the religious studies GCSE. We hope that the government will ensure that religious education has a central place in the new curriculum arrangements.”
Mr Gove wants to introduce new exams as a shake-up to the GCSE system. The first baccalaureate exams are due to be sat in English, maths and science in 2017, with history, geography and languages to come a year later.
What will be happen to other GCSE subjects is yet to be decided. But some religious groups fear that the exclusion of religious studies from the baccalaureate will deter students from taking it.