Around one in four schools are failing to meet their legal duty to give GCSE students religious education lessons, according to a survey.
It claims that many secondaries are cutting back on specialist RE teachers, leaving pupils being taught by staff who are not experts in the subject.
RE has been “edged out” of schools by government reforms and students are losing out, said the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (Natre) which conducted the poll.
Overall, 26 per cent of schools are not meeting their legal obligation to teach RE to pupils taking their GCSEs. This is down slightly from 33 per cent who said the same last year, according to the findings, based on a survey of teachers at 580 schools.
One in eight say their secondary schools are not meeting the requirement to teach 11 to 14-year-olds the subject, the same proportion as last year.
RE is a compulsory subject in all English schools.
Among state community schools – those under local council control – a third are not meeting the duty for GCSE pupils. In academies without a religious ethos, this figure was 35 per cent and in grammars it was 29 per cent, the poll found.
A fifth of community schools and academies without a religious character have seen a cut in their numbers of specialist RE staff, Natre’s survey concludes, while 14 per cent of faith schools have seen a reduction.
“The number of RE subject specialist staff continues to fall in all types of school,” the Natre report says.
“The first indication that teachers of RE were beginning to be made redundant, or transferred to teach other subject areas, was reported in Natre’s first survey after the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).”
The EBacc is a measure recognising pupils who score at least a C at GCSE in English, maths, science, a foreign language and history or geography.
The exclusion of RE from the EBacc created a storm of protest, with campaigners arguing that the move would lead to the subject being marginalised in schools.