Irreligious Educators? An Empirical Study of the Academic Qualifications, (A)theistic Positionality, and Religious Belief of Religious Education Teachers in England and Scotland

Graeme Nixon* (Corresponding Author), David Smith, Jo Fraser-Pearce

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Abstract

    This paper, based on 355 survey responses from secondary Religious Education (RE) teachers in England (n = 238) and Scotland (n = 117), explores the background of these educators in terms of qualifications, personal (a)theistic belief, and religion. This research seeks to establish the degree backgrounds of RE teachers, what religion they belong to (if any), and the range of theistic, agnostic, and atheistic teachers currently within the RE profession. This paper, acknowledging the similar and contrasting natures of England and Scotland in terms of the history, status and purpose(s) of the subject, demonstrates that RE teachers in these countries come from diverse academic backgrounds, and that most RE teachers in England and Scotland do not believe in God(s). Nearly half of RE teachers in England and more than half in Scotland have no religion. The granulation to England and Scotland allows us to make tentative links with national census and social attitudes research, and with literature, which posits nuanced secularisation trajectories. Furthermore, the data allow us to cross-tabulate (for example, between degree background and religious beliefs), as well as with the data in extant research about the risks of sanitised and essentialised approaches to teaching religion in schools.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number184
    Number of pages21
    JournalReligions
    Volume12
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2021

    Keywords

    • religion
    • religious education
    • secularisation
    • UK Schools
    • teachers
    • teacher identity

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