The Big Questions about teaching RE, answered

Discussions about religion, faith and belief often come back to some of the biggest questions we ask ourselves: What are we here for? What happens when we die? Is there actually a God? Does morality need religion?

If you're thinking about going into teaching and considering Religious Education as an option (or maybe you haven’t chosen your subject yet), you probably have a few big questions of your own. So here are some answers to help you make your mind up, plus some useful sources of more info. 


Why should I think about teaching RE?

The Teach RE website has a great video that looks into life as an RE teacher and some of the reasons people choose it as a career – it's a handy place to start. 

You can also think about the 'teaching' part, and the 'teaching RE' part, separately. Teaching itself – whatever subject you choose – gives you a chance to educate, inspire and inform young people. Your passion for a subject, whether it's history, geography or RE can really make a difference to their lives.

Teaching RE itself offers a few unique opportunities, too. You'll be examining different philosophies and beliefs about the world, challenging them and discussing them with your students. Every day something in the news – from our response to natural disasters to tensions in the Middle East and Asia - will be relevant to your subject, so you're guaranteed to have a varied, interesting life in the classroom. 

RE is also very popular with students. GCSE entries for RE are now higher than any other subject after Maths, English and the Sciences, and the figures have been rising continuously over the past few years. Despite this there is a shortage of RE specialists.

RE Students

Do I need to be religious to teach RE?

Actually, no. Great RE teachers come from all walks of life. Teaching RE isn’t about instructing your students in one specific religion or belief system (even in faith schools). It's about teaching them to analyse and understand a range of faiths and beliefs and to approach them academically – there's a curriculum for RE, just as there is for physics or English literature.

Of course, the question of your own personal faith is bound to come up with your students, but it can form part of the dialogue you have with them. You'll be able to exchange views and explore what it means to have, or not have, a religious belief in today's world. 

How will I train, and is funding available?

There are different routes to becoming an RE teacher. School leavers can choose a teaching degree, for example, while graduates with non-teaching degrees will need to complete a postgrad teaching course. The Teach RE website has more info. You can also chat to an advisor who can help you with school placements and which course to choose

If you're a graduate and have a 2:1 or first class degree, the happy news is that bursaries of up to £9,000 are available to help cover your training costs. There are other funding options out there, too – you can find out more here


Do I need a first degree in religious studies?

Not necessarily. A degree in RS or Theology will certainly help, but if your degree is in a humanities subject such as Cultural Studies, Law, Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology, History, Philosophy, Politics, Social Policy or Criminology, you could also fit the bill nicely.

If you don't have a first degree in RS or Theology you may need to complete an online RE course before you start your teacher training. These courses cover the fundamentals of teaching RE and help you develop your subject knowledge – find out more here

How will I learn enough about different religions to teach them?

No-one expects you to know every sacred text backwards and have a range of religious figures on speed-dial. But you will need a broad knowledge of a range of faiths and belief systems. Your Initial Teacher Training (e.g. a PGCE) will cover some of this, and there are lots of options for learning more.

Once you're a qualified teacher you might want to consider a masters course, for example, to really enhance your knowledge and enrich your students' experience (and make yourself even more employable); or there are a range of other courses out there, take a look at the programme for newly qualified RE teachers from the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE)

RE is becoming more and more popular meaning the demand for good teachers is only going to increase. So if you want to help empower young people to understand religion and belief, to shape the way they view the world and to wrestle with the Big Questions, it could be the path for you. You don't have to have all the answers – just the desire to seek them. Good luck!

So what are you waiting for? Make today the day you