Islamic Religious Education in England

Bill Gent, Mike Diboll and Farid Panjwani*

Foreword: Making Sense of Islamic Religious

Education in an English Context

Though the term “Islamic religious education” (IRE) is familiar on the Continent, it is not so in England, where it can cause bafflement. The general term “religious education” (RE) is familiar, of course but placing “Islamic” before it could imply that RE is being treated as a Muslim confessional activity. If so, this then appears to clash with the term RE, which in England has generally come to mean a non-confessional activity. But, of course, language changes, and some terms can begin to carry varying connotations in different contexts.

So where does this leave us in this chapter? Though, for the authors, the term “IRE” is not precise, we have decided to explore it in two senses: We explore IRE in the context of Muslim state-supported schools; further (and to give consonance with other chapters in this section of the book), we look briefly at some aspects of how teaching and learning about Islam forms part of the RE programme of secular state-supported schools.

State-Church Relations and the Muslim

Communities in England

State and Church in England

The proportion of the English population identifying as Christian has fallen from two-thirds (66%) in 1983 to just over one-third (38%) in 2018.' Further, the proportion of the population identifying as Anglican (Church of England) has fallen from 40% in 1983 to just 12% in 2018.2 Nonetheless, there remain many formal aspects of English public and civic life that demonstrate a robust link between church and state. For example, the coronation of a new monarch takes place in Westminster Abbey as an Anglican act of worship; further, the membership of the House of Lords includes as a statutory right 26 Anglican bishops; each Parliamentary day of work begins with Anglican prayers; one of the titles of the monarch is Defender of the Faith (Anglicanism), and the monarch has a dual role as head of both state and church. While there has been a running debate as to whether the Church of England should be disestablished, special status and privileges continue to be accorded. Furthermore, the role of the churches, particularly the Anglican Church, has played a prominent part in the historical development of a national education system.

Britain has no written Constitution that formally establishes churchstate relations or articulates official recognition of religions. Historically, this freedom has given all religious traditions the opportunity to set up their own schools. A high proportion of these were by Christian denominations (the Church of England, Roman Catholic, and nonconformist), but this has not precluded non-Christian communities from doing the same. London’s Jewish Free School, for instance, was founded in 1732. In recent decades, Muslim communities have also set up their own independent and state-funded schools.

The Muslim Communities in England:

Diversity and Historical Encounter

According to the 2011 census, 2.7 million Muslims form almost 5% of the United Kingdom’s population; in 2016, this number was estimated to have grown to 6.3% (PEW Research Center, 2017). Though Muslims have remarkable achievements to show in many fields, they are also, arguably, the most deprived religious group in the country. For instance, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), while 2.2% of the overall population are in hostels or temporary shelters, the figure is 5.1% within the Muslim population (MCB, 2015). Similarly, at 20%, Muslims’ full-time employment rates are half that of the general population, while the percentage of Muslims in prison is disproportionately high.

One striking feature of British Muslims today is their diversity in ethnic and doctrinal terms as well as in the ways they relate to their faith in terms of observance, piety, and secularity. Though in popular imagination Muslim presence in Britain is often seen as a contemporary issue, the interaction between Britain and Muslims goes back much further than the post-Second World War era (Dunlop, 1957; Holt, 1994). The first relatively permanent Muslim populations in Britain can be traced back at least to the mid-19th century. The interactions between indigenous Britons and Muslims originally from overseas were mediated as much, if not more, by colour, race, and social status than by religion. As Ansari (2004, 24) notes, most Muslims who came to Britain during this period “did not publicly act under the label ‘Muslim’ and were not even necessarily perceived as such by the wider society, but on the whole in broader racial terms”.

From the later part of the 19th century, however, “Muslimness” started to emerge as an increasingly important public identity marker. The period also saw the beginning of the phenomenon of non-Mus-lim Britons converting to Islam. While religion was always an important identity attribute in Muslim contexts, its heightened, and sometimes almost exclusive, functionalisation in recent decades relates to several factors: religious attachment and institutionalisation, particularly around mosques; education; the rise of the New Right; transnational links; and the “double alienation” experienced by many young Muslims (Panjwani, 2017). Many, perhaps most, of the first generation of postwar Muslim immigrants felt they were “less than full citizens”; yet the “myth of return” meant this alienation was often perceived as a shortterm difficulty endured for the greater good of generational upwards social mobility “back home” (Anwar, 1979). However, as subsequent generations became more self-assured of their citizenship, they did not feel indebted to their country of birth. Thus, difficulties in integration had a far deeper impact on them (Nielsen, 1987); this included a turn towards religion as an identity marker.

Religion and Education in England: General Overview

Until the mid-19th century, assured access to formal education in Britain tended to be the privilege of upper-class males; for the majority of children, receiving education of any kind was a matter of luck or charity. In 1833, the government began to give grants to the many schools which the churches and other groups had established. It increasingly became clear, however, that provision by voluntary organisations could not meet increasing educational needs, particularly in urban areas in which industrialisation had led to population growth. Thus, the 1870 Education Act marked the start of the state’s direct involvement in schooling through the establishment of elementary schools where they were needed. This began the so-called dual system, where schooling was provided both by the church and other voluntary groups and also by the state. There were also a large number of independent schools (the most prestigious of them referred to as “public” schools), many of a religious character, for which parents paid fees. Though voluntary schools gave denominationally based religious teaching, post-1870 legislation required that religious instruction (RI) in the new board schools should be non-denominational, although parents could withdraw their children from RI if they felt it was against their religious convictions.

The next major piece of educational legislation was the 1944 Education Reform Act, which solidified the dual system. A large number of denominational schools now entered the state sector as voluntary “aided” or “controlled” schools; thus, whilst retaining their denominational character, they were financed largely by the state via local education authorities.

The traditional Christian character of English schooling was reaffirmed in the Act by two requirements relating to state-funded schools: that RI should form part of the curriculum, and that each school day should begin with an “act of collective worship”. Parents’ right of withdrawal was maintained in both cases.

Between 1944 and the next major Education Reform Act (1988), British society underwent profound change. As significant numbers of people from the former colonies migrated to the UK from the early 1950s onwards, the British population became much more diverse. Further, both religious and educational ideas had shifted. Partly because of the impact of secularisation, there was increasing opposition to the idea that RI should be a Bible-based Christian confessional activity; there was an increasing demand that other religions should have a place in RI. The 1988 Education Act set up a National Curriculum to be followed by all state-funded schools. Although remaining compulsory, religious education (RE as it was now called) was not included in the National Curriculum. Under the new arrangements, locally agreed syllabuses for RE for use by non-denominational state schools could no longer be exclusively Christian3. However, collective worship was to be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character”. Further, each local authority was now obliged to have a Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) which would have a variety of responsibilities, including the writing and periodic updating of its RE syllabus.

Since then, there have been many social and educational changes (including the setting up of a national system of school inspection1 in 1993), as each successive government has increasingly sought to leave its own imprint on state education.5 State schools, however, are still required to include RE in their curriculum and to hold a daily act of collective worship, though aspects of both requirements have become increasingly contentious. Over recent years, there has also been a call for including non-religious worldviews such as humanism within RE." Non-Christian groups, including Muslims, have opted not only to set up their own independent (fee-paying) schools, but also schools which receive state funds.

The Place of Islam Within National Life and Education

Muslims in Britain: The Educational Trajectory

Arguably, it is in the field of education that Muslim communities have been most active (Ansari, 2004; Fetzer, 2006). Educational provision in the industrial cities where Muslims settled in large numbers was geared to the perceived needs of working-class children. The educational facilities were, by the government’s own admission, often overcrowded, inadequate, and crumbling (HMSO, 1963; 1967). Ansari (2004, 299) notes that early policy responses of the 1960s “assumed that Muslim immigrant children would be working class ... but it was also expected that the policies

Islamic Religious Education in England 101 being considered as appropriate to address the specific educational ‘deficit’ of white working-class pupils would apply equally and automatically to Muslim children”. The “working class” assumption was underpinned by a further assumption which held that the children of Commonwealth immigrants would assimilate, at least to a degree, into British culture.

The government’s default policy of assimilation started to change in the 1970s as the “multi-cultural agenda” began to influence education policy. Integration, or in some cases even cultural pluralism, began to replace assimilation. Within the overall atmosphere of multiculturalism, many local authorities with large non-Christian populations began to revisit the hitherto Christian-dominated RE in state schools. In some cases, the shift owed much to pressure from Muslims. As a result, schools started to incorporate into their curricula perspectives from different religions, the aim being to acquaint children with various aspects of religions found in Britain. It was, in fact, beginning to be a legally defined “multi-faith” RE. For many Muslims, however, this trend towards multi-faith RE appeared challenging. For them, it was tantamount to providing students with a “shopping list” of religions:

What concerned Muslims — and their concern was shared by Sikhs and several Christian groups — was in part the implication that in this new RE all religions were to be open to questioning of an essentially secular nature. The almost total absence of reference to God and the transcendent and the emphasis on the study of religion as a human and social phenomenon were deeply unsatisfactory (Nielsen, 1989, 229).

Thus, while there were moves towards multi-faith RE, there was no easy interpretation of what it meant. Some saw it as a policy of cultural segregation, others as a policy of integration based upon a more equitable distribution of power. Still others took it as a justification for more educational sensitivity and expansion of opportunities (Haw, 1998). Questions about the scope of multiculturalism were raised, and demands were made to include religious and cultural minorities in the multicultural policy (Modood, 1992). As Muslim communities grew and developed, a variety of institutional spaces also emerged in which traditional types of confessional Islamic teaching and learning could take place, including out-of-school-hours supplementary classes (which are said to involve about 250,000 Muslim children and young people heritage [Gent, 2011]); dar ul uloom (full-time institutions for those seeking a more intense study of Islam); and higher education institutions (that either offer Islamic studies drawing upon modern social sciences and the humanities, or seek collaborative partnerships with Muslim colleges [Scott-Baumann and Cheruvallil-Contractor, 2017, 133-158]). Additionally, there are approximately 200 schools with a Muslim religious character, of which 33 are state-funded in different modes.'

The Demand for, and Development of, Muslim Schools in England

The prediction that there would be a demand for Muslim schools had been made as early as 1968 (Derrick and Goodall, 1968). Utilising the relatively easy capacity for groups - religious or otherwise - to set up their own independent, fee-paying schools, Muslim schools began to be established from the late 1970s and, by January 1989, 15 such Muslim schools were in operation (Haw, 1998). In 1998, after a prolonged period of legal battles and repeated attempts, the Islamia Primary School in Brent, London, became the first Muslim school to obtain state funding as a “voluntary-aided” school. By 2018, there were approximately 200 full-time Muslim schools in England, of which 27 were state-funded (Long and Bolton, 2018). The latter number had risen to 33 by December 2019.

It is important to note that the demand for Muslim schools is not universal (Haw, 1994). In the UK, at least 95% of the more than half-a-million Muslim children go to state-funded community or Christian denominational schools. Thus the 200 or so Muslim schools (independent and state-funded) cater to only a fraction of Muslim children. Those arguing for separate Muslim schooling appear to be placing a high significance on the role of religion in their lives. Not only would they like to be religious in their belief, rituals, manners, and personal lives, but they would also like various aspects of public life - particularly education - to be moulded by their religious convictions. It is this heightened sense of religious identity that underlay the initial demand for Muslim schools, although today the reasons for the continuing demand for such schools appear to be more complex and varied. The division between publicly funded (“maintained”) and independent is just one way to categorise these schools. They can also be grouped in terms of being mixed or single-sex; according to their doctrinal allegiance; whether they are boarding8 or day schools; and whether they have adopted the National Curriculum. Perhaps the most significant of these dimensions in the context of this chapter is the doctrinal.

Islamic Religious Education in the Context of Muslim State-Funded Schools in England

Types, Diversity, and Commonality

The current Department for Education school database9 shows that there are now 33 state-aided schools of a Muslim character in England. The common link between all of these schools is their declared Muslim character and funding by the state. But in terms of school type, there are important differences: 15 are mixed-gender primary schools, of which seven are voluntary-aided; one is a primary academy; two are primary

Islamic Religious Education in England 103 free schools.10 In addition, there are 18 secondary schools (10 girls-only and eight boys-only) of which three are voluntary-aided, three are secondary academies, and 12 are secondary free schools.

Clearly, there will also be a variety in the character and curricula of these schools, depending on a number of factors: the philosophy and theology of the founding group; geographical location; the age of the school (a significant number will have formerly been independent establishments); their interpretation of Islam and its impact on learning and everyday life; the impact of school inspections;11 and whether they are free-standing or part of a conglomerate of schools such as a multi-academy trust (a trust that operates more than one academy).

There are also commonalities. Significantly, all schools following the National Curriculum have a statutory obligation to teach RE (according to their own denominational guidelines [in case of schools with a religious character] or according to a locally agreed syllabus) and to promote, controversially, government-defined “Fundamental British Values”.12 Furthermore, they are all subject to periodic external inspections of two types: one a whole-school Ofsted inspection, the other focusing on the quality and leadership of RE and the schools’ promotion of spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development. The second type of inspection is usually carried out by inspectors from the Association of Muslim Schools (AMS),13 with which 187 Muslim schools - state-funded and independent - are affiliated. The reports of both forms of inspection are publicly available, and together with other general information to be found on school websites, they provide a window on current practice, standards, and improvement.

(Islamic) Religious Education Within the Curriculum

Particularly in schools with a religious character, there will be an organic relationship between the timetabled subject of RE/IRE (other terms, such as “Islamic Studies”, might be used)14 and the daily life and character of the school. To take one example, in the high-performing Faversham Academy in Bradford, Yorkshire, an all-girls age 11-18 secondary school, RE is taught across all key stages and combines a strong focus on Islam with the other major world religions, the aim being to encourage students “to learn from different religions, beliefs, values and traditions whilst exploring their own belief” (school website). In their senior year, pupils take a publicly examinable General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).15 Their RE curriculum has two elements: Religion and Ethics and Religion, Philosophy and Social Justice. During their last two years at the school, students can opt to take a GCE A-Level11’ Religious Studies course focusing on Philosophy of Religion and Ethics and Study of Islam and Dialogues. This is one way, then, in which a state-funded Muslim school chooses to interpret its requirementto include RE in the curriculum (using the terms “Religious Education” and “Religious Studies”, but not “IRE”).

Faversham College’s 2017 AMS inspection report illustrates how features of traditional Muslim life and learning - such as Qur’anic recitation, Eid celebrations, and the use of a “hadith of the week” - do feature significantly in school life. A reference to the singing of nasheeds is a reminder, however, that Muslim schools will reflect the religious and cultural backgrounds of their founders and children’s families; in the case of Faversham College, this is Sunni and largely Pakistani. It is unclear from the school website whether more traditional aspects of Islamic education, such as learning Arabic and reading and memorising the Quran, are also part of the curriculum, or are available as enhancements. Certainly, most if not all such schools will include further enrichment activities, such as visits to Islamic centres (local and further afield) and those of other religions. This inter-faith dimension is usually highlighted in school publicity material because it demonstrates a positive attitude to the diversity of modern British life.

Though commonality and distinctiveness, then, need to be recognised across English state-supported Muslim schools, the latter element is less marked in the case of schools belonging to a multi-academy trust. Here there is an attempt to identify and share good practice (including the wording of key policy statements) across the trust’s school group. This also marks a significant development in English Muslim schools: although the first generation of schools were undoubtedly essentially isolated units, here we now have groups of Muslim schools (and, in the example that follows, non-Muslim schools too) working together and sharing good practice.

An example of this is the Star Multi-Academy Trust, which now consists of 29 primary and secondary schools, 20 of which have a “Muslim character”. Thus, just over 60% of English state-funded Muslim schools belong to this one multi-academy trust. The Trust claims that common key aims and approaches have been agreed upon and adopted by all schools, and that all of the schools of a Muslim character are open to both Muslims and children of other faiths or none. The Trust further asserts that diversity is accepted and celebrated, and that the RE programmes the schools use aim to promote a broad view of RE/IRE, but with a particular emphasis on Islam. All 16 currently available Ofsted inspection reports have judged these schools to be Outstanding (Ofsted’s highest rating). The available AMS reports also present a similar judgement in relation to RE and SMSC development.

Resources, Including Textbooks

Since the 1970s, many RE books, singly or as part of a series, have been published to support the “modern” style of RE in English state-supported

Islamic Religious Education in England 105 schools and beyond. These have tended to be aimed at the primary (ages 4-11) or the secondary (ages 11-18) school markets. Such books have developed over time in keeping with educational and pedagogical developments. With the onset of Ofsted school inspections, for instance, an increasing number of such books have incorporated assessment schemes and criteria. In recent decades, of course, there has also been increased availability of web-based material. Schoolbooks relating to Islam have varied in quality; however, reviews of such material17 have tended to point to common weaknesses, including a tendency to “Orientalise” Islam, a tendency to present a standard and static picture of beliefs and practices, and a tendency to over-simplify and to emphasise knowledge content and factual recall at the expense of reflection, challenge, and enquiry.

The authors of this chapter are unaware of any recent detailed review of the use of resources in state-funded Muslim schools, although inferences can be drawn from three sources: school AMS inspection reports, published schemes of work, and the impact of following RE courses with a broad RE base. In their section on RE, the AMS reports give little detail about specific resources used, relying instead on general categories: visits to various places of worship, links with local inter-faith groups, work with other schools (including faith schools of other religious traditions), and external visitors and speakers. There is often a comment about the supply of RE and Islamic books in the school library (usually judged to be Adequate, a relatively low ranking). Even in one high-performing boys’ secondary school (inspected 2015), the judgement was made that newly acquired learning resources did not sufficiently challenge more able pupils.

State-supported schools of a Muslim character have sometimes utilised schemes of work from outside sources. The AMS report for Islamia Primary School, for instance, identifies Safar College in North London as the source of the school’s scheme of work (presumably the Islamic Studies part). Other schemes nationally available to Muslim schools have been the outcome of projects or of publishing initiatives such as the ¡Syllabus^ suite of school materials, which aim to “enlighten and empower Muslims through learning experiences, equipping and guiding them in their everyday lives”. Though attractive in style, much of this latter material is content-driven, however. For those state-supported Muslim schools that have chosen to follow their local agreed syllabus for RE (as some have), or to enter students for GCSE or GCE A-level examination Religious Studies courses, a range of resources are available from the examination boards themselves. Regarding those Muslim schools in the Star Multi-Academy Trust, AMS and Ofsted reports usually commend the schools for the quality of the in-service professional development teachers receive. However, the trust boasts the Star Institute, which serves to support teacher training and development and which,

as an accredited National Teaching School, also runs accredited courses for those who wish to enter the teaching profession.

Islam Within Non-Confessional Religious Education

Broad Context

The place of a non-confessional study of Islam within English state-supported primary and secondary schools is firmly established. As such, there is no local agreed syllabus19 that does not include a study of Islam in its RE requirements for some or all the key stages.20 In order to support schools in fulfilling this requirement, most local authorities will have produced support material, organised courses for primary and secondary teachers, and undertaken other initiatives. It is also important to note that there are an increasing number of teachers of Muslim heritage (often third-generation British Muslims) in both primary and secondary schools who, if willing, can serve as excellent resources for non-Muslim teachers. Muslim pupils also can fulfil such a role.

In recent decades, however, the local agreed syllabus framework which has supported the continuation of RE in state-supported schools has been increasingly threatened by a number of largely politically induced factors, all of which have negatively affected RE teaching (including its Islamic component). Firstly, the role of local authorities has been seriously diminished, with central government radically reducing the funding to enable them to carry out their statutory functions (including those related to RE). Thus, for example, though at one time nearly all local authorities supported a specialist RE adviser to work with and for local schools, most authorities can no longer afford this. Secondly, the pattern of English state-supported schooling brought in by the 1944 Education Act no longer applies to a significant extent in that there has been a major government-led move to detach schools from the control of local authorities in order to give them independence.21 Approximately two-thirds of English state-maintained schools have now converted to become “academies” (or academy free schools), receiving their funding from central government rather than from their local authority, and there is evidence22 to suggest that RE has gradually acquired a lower profile in academies without a religious character.

Thirdly, in a number of ways central government has implied that a public examination pass in RE/Religious Studies at age 16 or 18 is not as worthwhile as in other more “mainstream” subjects (such as English, mathematics, and science). This has encouraged some secondary schools to reduce the time allocated to RE teaching, leading to a notice-able reduction in numbers being entered for RE public examinations.

This, in turn, can lead to a reduction in the number of staff (or specialist staff)23 allocated to teach RE.


Nevertheless, despite such downturns, there remains a wide range of RE-related resources to support teachers of RE at both the local and national levels. There are, for example, independent RE consultants who are available to teachers and schools to support RE development, including teaching about Islam and arranging mosque visits;24 a range of quality web-based resources such as BBC Bitesize,25 which provides illustrated information about world religions, including Islam; and national organisations which support RE development. To illustrate this, the work of RE Today26 continues to be outstanding in the quality of its service to schools and teachers, publishing a range of high-quality teacher support materials, including several series on teaching about Islam, It publishes the RE Today magazine, has a group of advisers who work with local authorities, schools, and teachers nationally, and supports over 260 NATRE-affiliated “local network groups” across the UK, Hong Kong, and Cyprus.

An Example of a Contemporary Resource Book on Muslims

The 33-page booklet Muslims was published by RE Today Services in 2017 as part of its Examining Religion and Belief series aimed at secondary school students and teachers. Its aim was to provide “original source material and contemporary voices, while recognising and identifying diversity of views, controversies and complexity” (Pett, 2017, 1). The book includes imaginatively and carefully written contributions from Muslims from a range of backgrounds, includes a strong aesthetic dimension, suggests demanding learning activities, and identifies learning outcomes against which pupil progress can be identified. The 12 two-page units include: “Introducing Muslims; Outlining Sunni and Shi’a beliefs”, “Essential Text: Examining Rumi”, “Muslim Voices: What Scholars Say About Jihad”, and “Current Controversies: How Are Muslims and Islam Represented in the Media?”

RE Today Services has also published another 33-page booklet, Muslims, aimed at 4- to 11-year-olds as part of its nine-book Inspiring RE series. Moreover, the purchase of either of these books enables access to additional eResources through the Internet.

Concluding Thoughts and Reflections

We began this chapter by reflecting on how puzzling the unfamiliar acronym IRE is in an English context. Looking then at the history of

English state-supported Muslim schools, we discovered that, in one large multi-academy trust in particular, an unusual evolution appeared to have been taking place, one which challenged the clear-cut distinction between confessional IRE (appropriate for Muslim schools) and non-confessional RE (appropriate for non-religious schools). Thus, within the secondary Muslim schools of the Star Multi-Academy Trust, for instance, there appears to have evolved a form of RE that combines both elements. Moreover, the Trust suggests that such a process is entirely consistent with their aim of promoting leadership qualities in those who will contribute actively to contemporary British society. Furthermore, in terms of overall educational achievement, some of the secondary schools involved are amongst the highest performing in the country. However, further research questions now present themselves, for example: “What is the quality of experience of Muslim and non-Muslim students in the Muslim Star Multi-Academy Trust schools?” and “Can a similar process be discerned in other free-standing Muslim state schools?” Finally, “Is there an emerging across-the-range approach in English state-supported Muslim schools to how they treat religion in their educational programmes?” “Would framing a typology of approaches be possible, and helpful?”


  • * We started this writing project at the invitation of Bill, and in conjunction with him. This was our first collaboration with him. We had heard from many scholars and practitioners how productive and joyful it was to work with Bill; in this assignment we experienced it ourselves. Bill brought together a powerful mind, a sharp sense of humour, enormous energy, and a humane personality. He led the writing and had completed it before he left us. In the process of writing and researching this, many further questions were raised, and we were looking forward to future research and collaboration with Bill to engage with them. He will be missed, but he will live on in our memories and in his scholarship.
  • 1. See: British Social Attitudes Survey 36: Religion (2019), 1-5. Available from: www. [Accessed 30 December 2019].
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. The 1988 Act stated that any new agreed syllabus should "reflect the fact that the religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian whilst taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain” (Education Reform Act 1988, s.8 (3).
  • 4. Administered by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).
  • 5. This has led to an increasing variety of state-funded schools in existence.

In particular, there has been a spectacular growth in the number of “academies” - primary or secondary schools which are no longer controlled by their local authority but, rather, funded directly by central government.

6. The first recommendation of the Commission for RE report (2018) was that the title of RE should be changed to Religion and World Views (Religion and Worldviews: The Way Forward. /1 National Plan for RE, 2018, 11).

  • 7. Exact figures for the number of Muslim schools in existence are notoriously difficult to pin down for a number of reasons: schools open and close, some close and open under a different name (such as the Al-Hijra school in Birmingham, the secondary section of which was closed down in August 2019 after an unfavourable Ofsted inspection, although the primary section continued as part of a multi-academy trust). There is also the thorny issue of "unregistered” Muslim schools.
  • 8. A boarding school is one in which some or all children board overnight at the school either on a weekly basis or for the whole of each school term. A high number of British independent schools have traditionally been boarding.
  • 9. Website available from: [Accessed 12 May 2020].
  • 10. Academies are publicly funded schools, reporting directly to the Secretary of Education. A Free school is an academy that starts as a new school.
  • 11. Following an unsatisfactory school inspection, Ofsted has the power not only to close schools but also to insist that they reopen as a multi-academy trust.
  • 12. From 2004, state schools have a statutory obligation to promote "Fundamental British Values” as part of their SMSC provision.
  • 13. Website available from: [Accessed 12 May 2020].
  • 14. The RE curriculum statement on the Islamia school website (Available from: [Accessed 10 June 2020]), for instance, refers to both Religious Education and Islamic Studies. Furthermore, the school curriculum also includes Qur'an and modern Arabic.
  • 15. The basic national General Certificate of Secondary Education taken by 16-year-old students.
  • 16. The basic national Advanced Level General Certificate of Education taken by many 18-year-old students.
  • 17. See, for example, Jackson, R. et al, 2010 and Panjwani, 2005.
  • 18. Website available from: [Accessed 12 May 202].
  • 19. Since the 1988 Education Act, it has been binding on each local authority to produce a local agreed syllabus for RE for maintained schools in its area, and to review this every five years. The body that produces the agreed syllabus is called an "agreed syllabus conference”, which consists of representatives of Christianity, other local religions, teachers’ organisations, and the local council.
  • 20. That is: Key Stages 1 (5-6), 2 (7-11), 3 (11-14) and 4 (14-16).
  • 21. Thus, academies do not have to follow the national curriculum.
  • 22. See: An analysis of a survey of teachers on the impact of government policy on student opportunity to study GCSE Religious Studies (July 2013).
  • 23. The number of non-specialist staff teaching secondary RE has been a long-standing concern of the national RE community.
  • 24. See, for example, [Accessed 12 May 2020].
  • 25. Website available from: [Accessed 12 May 2020].
  • 26. Website available from: [Accessed 12 May 2020].


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