An overview of religious education (2013)

These pages are designed to provide an overview of the legislation and guidance affecting RE provision for schools in England and Wales. 

It is also important to distinguish between what are the statutory requirements for RE and what forms the non-statutory guidance.

The links below provide more information on all aspects of these:

Statutory requirements for RE


RE is a statutory subject which is part of the basic curriculum.

RE is not designated a national curriculum subject because for schools within the remit of the local authority, the subject is determined locally by the SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on RE). The SACRE's locally agreed syllabus is a statutory document which must be followed in maintained schools unless they have a designated denomination ('faith schools').  Once adopted by the LA, the agreed syllabus sets out what pupils should be taught and can include the expected standards of pupils’ performance at different stages.  Every locally agreed syllabus must reflect that the religious traditions of Great Britain are in the main Christian, while taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions represented in Great Britain. Look here for more detail on statutory requirements for agreed syllabus RE.

There are specific curriculum and inspection arrangements for RE in different types of school.


The law requires school inspections and these are carried out under Section 5 of the Education Act 2005 by the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted). Further information on Ofsted can be found here.

The current inspection framework was introduced in April 2013. In addition to the Framework this reference contains guidance for the assistance of inspectors and copies of the main inspection documents.

The emphasis in current inspection procedures is on the effectiveness of a school and self-evaluation. Guidance on preparing for an inspection can be found here

Grade descriptors, exemplars of good practice and recent Ofsted reports

Ofsted carries out visits to gather exemplars of good practice in RE. A link to these exemplars can be found here on the Ofsted website.

This link gives access to information about generic grade descriptors and supplementary subject-specific guidance for making judgments about RE as well as links to recent Ofsted reports on RE including:

Inspection in different types of school

There are different and specific inspection arrangements for RE in different types of school.

A general briefing for Ofsted inspectors on inspecting faith schools of different types can be found here. There are also particular requirements for the inspection of schools with a religious foundation, as follows:

Non-statutory guidance on RE

In January 2010 the DCSF published new Guidance on Religious Education in English schools. This replaced the last major governmental guidance for RE (within Circular 1/94) and is an important document in the interpretation of current legislation and its application for all concerned with Religious Education.

In recent years there have also been three curriculum documents produced by government agencies that have had an important impact on the RE curriculum:

  • The 2004 Non-Statutory National Framework for Religious Education continues to be influential in England and Wales. This document received a broad consensus of approval across the RE communities and has been used in the design of most subsequent agreed syllabuses. 
  • RE in the New Secondary Curriculum, 2007. The National Curriculum for England at Key Stages 3 and 4 was published by the (then) QCA in 2007 and implementation started in September 2008. RE was included as a statutory subject with non-statutory guidance. 
  • The Proposed Primary Curriculum, 2010. Although curriculum documents relating to a new primary curriculum were sent to all English primary schools in the early part of 2010, a change of government in May that year meant that the curriculum did not pass into law.

Following the change in government in 2010, a new curriculum review was ordered. The government has now published new programmes of study for all subjects which form part of the new National Curriculum, for first teaching in maintained schools from September 2014. 

Religious education was not included in the review. Instead, existing arrangements for the subject are to continue. The RE Council carried out a Subject Review for RE and its report was published in October 2013.

Statutory requirements for RE

Specific curriculum and inspection arrangements for RE in different types of school

The statutory position of RE is similar to that for England (see above), with specific requirements for curriculum and inspection according to the type of school.

Specific information on the law and national guidelines for RE in Wales can be found at: This is available online in both Welsh and English versions.

RE and the curriculum (including non-statutory guidance)

The National Framework for RE in Wales and other supporting documents can be found at: 

Information about the Wales Association of SACREs can be found at   

RE and inspection

Information on the inspection of RE in Wales can be found at the website of Estyn:   This includes the section RE in secondary schools. Training material (for inspectors) and a large scale survey, RE in secondary schools: June 2013.

Other significant information about RE

Reports on SACRE contributions to RE and collective worship
RE: history and legislative background