The Venerable Bede Church of England Academy in Tunstall Bank, Sunderland, has bucked the recently reported statistics on RE education in schools and is rewarded with an ‘Outstanding’ designation in a recent inspection.
A recent survey published by the Religious Education Council and the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE) found that a quarter of the schools polled said they do not offer the subject to all students at GCSE level (aged 14 to 16). But at the Venerable Bede Academy, part of the Dayspring Trust Multi Academy trust, their Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS) report was overflowing with praise for the school, its teaching of RE and other aspects of school life.
The inspection report said: “The distinctiveness and effectiveness of The Venerable Bede Church of England Academy as a Church of England school are outstanding.”
They went on to say: “As a result of the deep theological understanding of Christian values that is promoted, the academy is a community that cares about each other and nurtures everyone. This stems from the visionary and generous leadership of the executive headteacher, the Head of School and their senior colleagues.
“Religious education (RE) engages and challenges young people so that they think deeply about a range of beliefs and practices. This promotes pupils’ academic success and their significant respect for Christianity and other faiths.”
Head of School David Airey said: “We are delighted with the SIAMS inspection report. It confirms what we already knew that the teaching of RE in schools is not just important but essential to broaden the understanding of other faiths and cultures for young people today. In the troubled world we live in, a strong understanding of other faiths, their customs, culture and beliefs are really important in breaking down barriers that can lead to misunderstanding, conflict and intolerance.”
The inspection report which was conducted in the last academic year was born out by the GCSE RE exam results this summer where 75% of Students scored A* – C and 29% achieved A* or A.
Mr Airey added: “You might expect a Church School to do well in teaching RE, but we are a school open to all faiths and none and the way that we work in teaching RE is the same as we work across all other subjects. Where we may differ is in our approach which is well captured by the comments of the SIAMS inspectors when they said: ‘The needs of each pupil are carefully considered in the light of the academy’s motto ‘Soar to the heights together’. As a result, decisions are made in the very best interests of the individual so that he/she is enabled to succeed as a child of God in, and beyond, the academy community’.
“We can’t be complacent as there are always things we can do to improve further including further enhancing the students engagement with worship and in broader religious literacy, but we think we are on the right path and the future looks good.”